HOUSTON – Saturday’s open training session at BBVA Compass Stadium was the closest anyone – fans, media or players – have come to experiencing what the stadium could be like on game day.
After the inaugural hour-and-a-half training session, the Dynamo took the time to put words to their first on-field run through, an experience that didn’t disappoint. The facility was flawless, the pitch was picture perfect and the first reviews were nothing short of awe inspiring.
WATCH: Ribbon cutting at BBVA Compass Stadium
“When we walked out, we were all giddy,” Brian Ching said. “When I was jogging down to the concourse, I kind of slipped a little bit. The guys have a pep in their step and the organization has smiles on their faces. This is something to be proud of and this is a special day and it’ll be a more special day May 12.”
Roughly 1,000 fans were treated to a typical training session, complete with small-sided games and highlighted by a full-field scrimmage.
As the team worked 11-v-11, the intensity was high both on the field and in the stands, as the fans did their best to provide a hint of what the decibel level will be like against D.C. United during the opener and players responded to the occasion.
The biggest cheer came when Je-Vaughn Watson chested the ball down and volleyed it past Tally Hall, a special moment – training game or no – for a club and fanbase that has waited more than six years for their own home.
“It’s pretty cool with the number of fans that showed up to watch,” said Bobby Boswell, who along with his teammates spent nearly an hour signing autographs after the session. “I think the guys responded well and practice was a little more intense than normal. I think everyone who came enjoyed it, the players enjoyed and I think the coaches were happy with our performance. Now we’re moving forward from here.”
The Dynamo travel to Red Bull Arena on Wednesday for a match against a New York side (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) that defeated the LA Galaxy 1-0 this weekend
Pillars of BBVA
Boasting a boot room and intimate ambiance, BBVA has a very European feel. But there are 16 distinctive features, pillars honoring former and current players, that have their roots in America’s pastime.
“I’m a New York Yankees fan and I spent many days at Yankee Stadium,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said, “and no one’s better than the Yankees at making their stadium a shrine for tradition and history. That was my vision for this stadium. This place tells a story about our club and brand and those pillars are a representation of that.”
Former players honored by the pillars include assistant coach Wade Barrett, broadcaster Eddie Robinson and two members of D.C. United – the first opponent slated to face Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium – Dwayne De Rosario and Pat Onstad.
“You walk out and one of the first things you notice is the pillars,” Ching said. “It’s guys that have been here from the start and have set the foundation for this team. I congratulated Wade because he deserves to be up there. All those guys do. It’s special to share this moment with those guys.”
In what will certainly be a special moment for the franchise, the final features to grace the stadium will be the club’s two MLS Cup banners from the 2006 and 2007 seasons, which will be presented in a ceremony before the first match. Barrett, Robinson, Onstad, De Rosario and Craig Waibel will be in attendance to mark the occasion.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.