Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Dynamo left SJ, and the value of going back

Just saw this brief story in the San Jose Mercury News this morning. Apparently Dynamo are going to take on the Earthquakes 3.0, or rather, the Bay Area Wanderers, in a few weeks. I think this is great news, but not for the reasons you might think. You can follow the link or check out the brief item here:

New, old Quakes in two warm-up games
By Elliott Almond
Mercury News
Article Launched: 01/23/2008 04:17:54 AM PST

The new Earthquakes will make their debut next month against the old Earthquakes.
The expansion team announced Tuesday that it has scheduled two home exhibitions against the Houston Dynamo, the two-time defending Major League Soccer champion that left San Jose in 2005. The games are Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at PAL Stadium and Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium.
Houston boasts a nucleus of players and staff from the San Jose team that moved to Texas because it wasn't a financial success. That move left a bitter taste for many Bay Area soccer fans.

"They're the Houston Dynamo now," said Quakes defender Ryan Cochrane, who previously played in Houston and San Jose. "As soon as everyone can come to grips with that the better."
Although the Quakes still need to add five players to fill their 18-man roster, Cochrane is glad to play the league's best team immediately.
"It is the best way to start," he said. "Right away you will be able to see where you're at, see what the level is. It's a smart move for us."
Cochrane, a former Santa Clara University star who was the Quakes' first pick in the November expansion draft, also sees the exhibitions as an opportunity to begin a healthy rivalry with his one-time teammates.
"It's going to be exciting for the fans to see the old guys from the Quakes team," he said. "And those guys are going to be excited to come back to San Jose."
The game at PAL Stadium is free for Quakes season-ticket holders. General admission will be $15, with $10 going to the Police Athletic League. At Kezar Stadium, all tickets will be $15 general admission.
Contact Elliott Almond at or (408) 920-5865.

I think this is going to be a fabulous way to get up to speed before heading to the Pan Pacifics in Hawaii. Above and beyond the value of playing live competition during training camp, I think these games also might be a good way to put the whole is there/is not a rivalry issue in the past. The teams have more in common than not and are not natural rivals in any way. Dynamo is opposed to FC Dallas and the Bay Area and LA have that whole NoCal/SoCal thing going. A friendly competition between teams who have much in work to do in preseason and a special historical bond? Yes. Rivalry? No.

But the amazing thing is that the story appeared in the Mercury-News at all. Our good friends at the Soccer Silicon Valley blog have a nice reference to a column (read it here) by the SJMN's Patty Fisher that refers to her constant struggles with editors to write more soccer-related stories and have more soccer-related coverage.

As to Fisher's piece, I think that is hitting the nail on the head. The Houston Chronicle's soccer coverage has been beyond all of our wildest expectations here, I think we'd all agree. We get front page coverage of the Mexican leagues and Champions League update, as well as a weekly Soccer Page on Tuesdays. I have found at least a brief soccer item at least every other day in the paper, and frequently more than that. The Chron has stepped up to the penalty spot and realized the benefits with increased readership and national cred in the soccer press. It's waaay past time the SJMN did the same.

The Chron's coverage is of course not perfect, and many who know me may point out my homerism in lauding the paper's virtues in this regard, but I am merely echoing comments made by several outside the city sources, not the least of which are SF at The Offside Rules and Jeff Bull at Center Holds It, as well as Ives Galarcep at Soccer by Ives. Dynamo enjoy tremendous support here in Houston, both of a grass roots and institutional nature. Judging by Fisher's piece, not only was that not true back in San Jose, it still is not true. The Mercury-News pursues this path at their own peril, as evidence points to a significant market there that is not being served by their paper. At a time when so many traditional media sources are having trouble expanding their market share, to turn their back on soccer (or, I guess to be fair, their sides as they cover it sort of), is not only bad editorial policy, but a terrible business decision.


chris said...

It's not homerism. I'd much rather have the Chronicle than the Dallas Morning News. Glenn Davis covers FCD as well as the DMN does.

We have 3rd Degree, though.

Martek said...

I agree. All of my harsh assessment of the Mercury-News could be applied to the DMN, which is amazing. FCD should have great home support, and from what playtherapy, a former dallas resident, told me, they used to at the Cotton Bowl. No longer. Yet one more reason for Dynamo to continue to pursue a downtown, or at least inner city, stadium site.

Maybe winning will change things, but they've been pretty decent the last two years and it hasn't seemed to. Not that dallas having problems bugs me overly much, but that should be a strong MLS market, and in two years, Houston has easily passed it by. I guess two titles will do that for you.

athletics68 said...

I like that you take the Murk to task over their bad soccer coverage. But I'll have to disagree on your assesment of a rivalry ever developing between Houston and SJ. I think one already exists and will just continue to grow, at least from the SJ side. You may all choose to ignore it, but when you've got mentor vs protege in Frank and Dom, former teammates going head to head in Cannon and Cochrane vs your boys, stolen team vs replacement team, and scored fanbase vs AEG.... it's impossible for some form of rivalry to form. It may never match up to LA-SJ or Dallas-Houston, but it will be there and many Quakes fans will always hold the Houston franchise (especially while AEG owned) at some level of contempt.

Still the games will be fun. I'm glad we get to welcome your boys back in a relatively quiet setting because during the season I think you'll see the veritol rise, especially on our side.

Martek said...

It may be hard to keep it all going, though, especially since AEG is going to sell the team to Oscar De La Hoya. After that, there'll be a whole new rivalry with the Gals, in which, by the way, you'll have the whole nation behind you. You won't find too many people here in Houston rooting for LA over the Quakes, let me tell you. So while it'll be a nice storyline this season, the rivalry will fade or disappear unless there are some on-the-field situations that make it go.