In December of 2015, Mexican businessman Gabriel Brener became the majority owner of the Houston Dynamo, a team with a contested multicultural history and identity. Originally created in the aftermath of San Jose Earthquakes’ relocation in December of 2005, the team’s original name was set to be“Houston 1836” – a reference to the year that the Mexican army suffered defeat at the bloody Battle of San Jacinto; the year that Texas gained its independence; and the year that the city of Houston was founded. But for a team with a huge Latino fan base, the name stung – dredging up a difficult moment in history for the people of Mexico and their descendants, and a conflict that sometimes pitted families against one another.
In the end, the team’s name was changed to Dynamo, and since Brener has come on board, the club has continued to strengthen its ties to Latino fans, reflecting and representing the city of Houston’s 44% Hispanic census figures.
Of the Dynamo’s 10 offseason signings, only five were born in the U.S. There are players hailing from Brazil, Spain, Honduras, Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico, and around a dozen futbolistas who speak Spanish. Tom Dart paints a picture of this new reality in his post for MLSSoccer.com:
“A Londoner speaking Spanish to an Argentinian as a Brazilian midfielder makes a run and a Scottish coach barks instructions from the sideline. Welcome to the new Houston Dynamo. And for that matter, welcome to Houston.”
It can be argued – as we predicted – that Brener and company have played a definitive role in this new diverse and dynamic Dynamo side. In an interview with ESPN FC’s Nayib Moran, Erick “Cubo” Torres – 23-year-old Mexican international striker who recorded a dismal first six months in orange – stated that “with the new owners, I talk often. I have communication with Oscar de la Hoya and Gabriel Brener.” Different from years past? Yes, quite; “They’re Mexican, so I can communicate well with them,” Cubo went on to say. “I’m happy to have the support from the people at the top; it gives me confidence.”
Cubo is busy eyeing a successful year for club and country, eager to earn a spot in Potro Gutiérrez’s Rio 2016 squad after being crowned champion with the U-23s at CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championships last year. Meanwhile, other Latino stars are looking to break through for Houston too; 29-year-old Argentine Cristian Maidana is a stellar offseason signing capable of dishing out passes and creating chances, and Boniek García’s newly-minted contract means the seasoned Honduran international will be back in the mix as well. January 30th also marked Leonel Miranda’s re-entry into the side, as the 22-year-old Argentine winger returns on loan from Independiente.
With guys like Brener in the front office, it seems like the MLS might become a hotbed for young Latino talent moving forward. “Right now, players who are between 20 and 23, like me, need to be having playing time in order to build a solid career and have a lot of experience,” Torres told Moran. “Without a doubt, I do think [MLS] is a good option for many young Mexican footballers … There are a lot of teammates in the U-23 team who have come up to me and shown me their interest in coming to MLS. You’ll see that in no time there’ll be more young, talented Mexican footballers heading to the U.S.”
The new look Dynamo take the field for the first time this season on Sunday, when they host the New England Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium, 3:00 PM EST. Don’t miss it.