HOUSTON – Though Dynamo management gathered for a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the club's stadium progress, news that the franchise is seriously considering adding a Designated Player may instead steal the headlines.
Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of majority ownership group AEG, hosted the press conference alongside the club's chief operating officer Chris Canetti to provide an update on plans for a new soccer-specific stadium and practice complex.
However, Leiweke also spoke of a meeting he had with Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear and Canetti about green lighting a DP for next year.
“Both Dom and Chris have been given the assurances from ownership that we are prepared to go out and find a significant player for the Dynamo next year,” Leiweke said.
“From a business standpoint, the only thing I’ve asked Chris and Dom to do is don’t dip your toe in the water,” Leiweke added. “If you are going, go big. I don’t believe in halfway, and there is a commitment amongst all our partners to make it a significant player that moves the needle from a business standpoint, fan standpoint, as well as on the pitch.”
Leiweke wants Houston to aim high with their next DP, such as New York and LA have done with Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez and David Beckham.
“We’ve seen the impact in New York with Henry and Márquez,” Leiweke said. “I think the Dynamo fans deserve that and have a right to expect that. This is the fourth-largest city in the United States and it may be the best market in Major League Soccer.”
Canetti, though energized with the new task, said he recognizes that pulling it off will require some work in the offseason.
“It gives us a new outlook with where we go with our team into the offseason,” Canetti said. “We are going to have to put together some good plans regarding how we go out and make this a reality.”
Though it's clear that adding a significant DP will help sell the naming rights to the new stadium and provide both a marketing and public relations shot in the arm, Leiweke stressed that on-field performance will be the first priority when choosing a DP.
“Dom will play the lead as he has to make the decision as to how best improve the team on the pitch, and that is priority No. 1,” Leiweke said.
“It has to be a dramatic player that has a huge impact on winning games and gives us a competitive edge here. They are hard to find, a lot of mistakes may be made if you don’t find the right player, and it’s probably a player that doesn’t come in the January window.”
Regardless of the difficulty in pulling it off, Leiweke and the owners wanted to make their intent clear.
“It’s very important that ownership gives these guys the commitment to spend the extra money,” Leiweke said. “As we move into the stadium, we need to make sure Houston is a championship-caliber team and competing not only for the MLS Cup but for all of the tournaments that we play in.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.