Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Holy Leones! USL PDL roaring into town

Somewhere along the line, I lost track of the fact that the Houston Leones, a member of the USL's Premier Development League, will take the field for the first time ever in 2008. They'll play just 32 miles southwest of downtown in Richmond, which, as part of southern Fort Bend County, is one of the fastest growing areas not only of Houston, but also of the entire nation.

So who, are the Leones? According to the team's Wikipedia page, the team was formed last year by local real estate and construction bigwig Juan Carlos Hernandez, whose son Juan Carlos Jr., was a goalkeeper in the Cruz Azul youth development teams. The USL's page on the team has some wonderful up by the bootstraps background info on Hernandez, which is all very nice.

The team, who apparently is affiliated with Cruz Azul, will play at the The Soccer World Center, a 17-acre soccer-specific facility with three fields (including a 4,500-seat stadium field that is expandable to 8,000-10,000) that was built by Hernandez. The team's home opener, however, is unfortunately scheduled. They will open against the New Orleans Shell Shockers at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3. However, that same night at Robertson Stadium, Dynamo will host Chivas USA, only the Orangemen's second home game of the season, though 6th MLS game overall. My guess is that the Leones will find out right away what the words "WoTF put together THIS schedule?!?" means. The only other direct scheduling conflict right now (Dynamo's SuperLiga sked for July has not yet been released of course) is May 31 (Dynamo host Red Bulls).

Still, the rest of the schedule might be OK. Here's a quick look:

May 3 7 p.m. NO Shell Shockers at Soccer World
May 10 10 p.m. at Austin Aztex (who are playing a PDL sked before their full USL-1 team takes over in 2009)
May 16 9:30 at El Paso Patriots
May 17 9:30 at El Paso Patriots (so says the sked. Can this be right?)
May 24 7 p.m. Mississippi Brilla at Soccer World
May 31 7 p.m. El Paso at Soccer World
June 1 7 p.m. DFW Tornadoes at Soccer World (ANOTHER back-to-back!)
June 6 8 p.m. at Baton Rouge Capitals
June 7 8:30 p.m. at New Orleans
June 14 7 p.m. Austin at Soccer World
June 28 7 p.m. Laredo Heat (defending PDL champs) at Soccer World
July 4 7 p.m. Baton Rouge at Soccer World
July 5 7 p.m. Mississippi at Soccer World
July 12 9:15 at Laredo
July 17 8:30 at DFW
July 19 6 p.m. at Mississippi

Personally, I think this is pretty cool to see the development of the next generation. And if these guys can get games against the Dynamo Academy players, so much the better for everyone around here. The Leones are, unfortunately located waaaaay out int he suburbs, but if the team can be successful at developing all the unrecognized soccer talent around here (and believe me, there is a lot of that), then more power to them.


pate said...

I'd recommend that you take in some games. I live in walking distance of the field the BYU Cougars PDL team plays on and I love catching their games.

It's also been neat to see a couple of Cougars get picked up by RSL's reserve squad at various times during the season.

Watching the RSL @ BYU exhibition was also a blast, although Kreis never did heed the fans call to put in 'Pope Eddie the 23rd'.

playtherapy said...

I'm no longer a baseball fan but I have thoroughly enjoyed minor league games. I saw a USL game in San Antonio before it folded- the team had been sold to an owner with no money who couldn't make payroll. I DEFINITELY wanna make some games if they're affordable enough to take all my crew (wife, 4kids). That's something I can't do with the Dynamo.

ERic said...

Actually, the plan is for Aztex U-23 to stick around after the USL-1 team starts in '09. So, assuming everything works out, the Leones and the Aztex U-23 will be playing many games against each other.

Martek said...

I think it'll be fun to go see some Leones games, as well as Dynamo reserve games this year. I just wonder about the quality. Between Dynamo Academy and all, this team will probably be little more than a semi-pro side I'm thinking. But I really have no idea as I know almost nothing about the PDL other than that Laredo won it last year. So hopefully it'll be pretty fun, even though that drive out to Richmond is something of a hike!

Pat said...

Semi-pro is probably a good description. PDL teams are mostly college players on the team during their NCAA off-season.

On the other hand, the games tend to be spirited, pretty well played, and fun. It doesn't hurt that the teams mostly play on fields and have smaller crowds closer to the game.