HOUSTON – For the last four years, the Houston Dynamo have rolled out the red carpet for Hondurans.
Three players have featured for the Dynamo in that span who were part of Honduras’ recent World Cup squad: Carlo Costly, Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido. A fourth, Alexander Lopez, was on the preliminary roster.
Why is Houston such a popular spot for some of Los Catrachos’ best?
While Costly first came to Houston in 2011 and left after just half a season, since 2012 the Dynamo have had a regular Honduran pied piper, the usually quiet yet always smiling Garcia, who has proved to be a lightning rod for his countrymen.
“Boniek was the gate opener for everybody,” said Garrido, who debuted with Houston in Sunday’s 1-0 win over D.C. United. “He came in here and started doing things well, and that sort of opened people’s eyes toward the talent level we have in Honduras.
"Now it’s up to us to come in here, do things right and be able to validate that reasoning why we were brought here and try and make a positive contribution.”
Garcia is an elder statesman on the Honduran national team and both Lopez and Garrido say the 29-year-old winger’s voice carries value.
“Everything’s about relationships,” said Dynamo president Chris Canetti. “You know that Oscar’s got relationships with his former teammates at Olimpia and fellow national team players, and they talk all the time when they get together.
"And I’m sure he expresses to them the enjoyment he has playing for the Dynamo and the lifestyle he and his family have in Houston. They probably want to share the same thing if they get the opportunity.”
It’s not just word of mouth, however.
The Honduran national team has been a regular visitor to Houston, drawing strong crowds in the Bayou City during Gold Cup competition. And then there’s Olimpia, the Honduran club where Garrido, Lopez and Garcia played prior to coming to the Dynamo, having played Houston in CONCACAF Champions League play.
That’s made it easy to go shopping in the blue-and-white section.
“With Boniek, we saw him play a lot, and with Luis, we’ve played against him and seen him,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “You try and get whoever you can get, and fortunately for us we have a good relationship with Olimpia and these are the players we’re getting.”
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It’s not just about convenience, either.
Honduran teams, club and country, feature systems and players cut from the same cloth as are the Dynamo. Hardworking, physical and with a splash of technique, the country provides Houston with a breeding ground for their type of player.
But it hasn’t always worked out. Costly was a touted signing but scored just two goals before leaving after just half a season. Lopez was signed as a young Designated Player and has yet to see meaningful playing time, but Houston still have hope that he will quickly round into form.
In the case of Garcia, who has eight goals and 13 assists in his two-plus seasons in Houston, it’s been a success. And Houston are hoping Garrido, signed two weeks ago on loan from Olimpia, pans out, as well.
“It’s not a coincidence because we’ve become familiar with their teams and players having been able to see this so much,” Canetti said. “There’s a very good natural fit with how they develop their players and the quality of those players and the style they play that fits well in MLS.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.