From fly-overs to billboards to greeting cards and online videos, the Texas Derby between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo has reached new heights.
After back-and-forth smack talk between the teams’ front offices, FCD visit Robertson Stadium Saturday evening (8:30 pm ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) in their first matchup of the season.
The winner of the in-state derby receives a 19th century Mountain howitzer cannon nicknamed “El Capitán.” But more importantly, the victor gets bragging rights as the best MLS team in Texas.
“There’s so much passion built into it from the fan’s perspective and from our perspective and trying to retain the cannon,” FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman told reporters before the team embarked on their weeklong road trip. “For us, we just want to make sure we try to make a statement about who we are and what we represent as a club.”
This year, after a successful 2010 season for the Dallas side that culminated in the team’s first MLS Cup appearance, the two-time MLS Cup champion Dynamo felt the need to put FCD in their place as to who was the best MLS team in the state.
And so Houston’s front offices went to work. Nearly three weeks ago, passers-by on the Dallas North Tollway noticed an orange billboard with a photo of their two trophies next to the text, “Houston: Two times better than Dallas.”
FC Dallas responded with “Dallas ‘til I Die” and “#WeAllHateHouston” banners flown over Robertson Stadium during Houston’s May home games.
Several promotional videos, social-media banter and a greeting card later, and the rivalry is as big as ever.
“Our front office group hasn’t made that one any easier with all the stuff that’s going on now,” said FCD assistant coach John Ellinger. “For us, it’s to focus. We have gotten some good results of late and I think everybody wants to continue that.”
Visiting FC Dallas will also have plenty of support in the stands. Supporters group The Inferno will bus down to Houston on Saturday morning to cheer on their club in a rivalry transcendent of the game itself: It’s city vs. city.
“There’s a lot of passion that the fans are going to bring and we have to make sure we match that with our work rate on the field,” added Hartman, holder of 99 career shutouts.
Daniel Hernandez, who saw the billboard traveling to Pizza Hut Park one day and expressed his discontent via Twitter, took to the social-media platform again on Friday as the team prepared for training at Robertson Stadium.
“Its heatin up dwn here n Houston, and I don’t mean the weather! We’ve got to handle our business tomorrow!” he wrote.
FCD had struggled in the Space City before getting the franchise’s first win at Robertson Stadium in May of last year thanks in part to Ugo Ihemelu’s late second-half goal.
Both teams return from midweek matchups on the West Coast, but that will not hinder either squad from leaving it all on the field. The Texas Derby has begun.