HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo have a plan to take further control of their player development – and they are eyeing a location where that could take place.
As first reported by The Monitor, club president Chris Canetti and vice president David Tagliarino met with city officials in McAllen, Texas, about 350 miles south of Houston, about stationing a USL PRO club there. Club representatives offered a presentation to the city about the creation of a developmental club owned and operated by the Dynamo, called the Rio Grande Valley Dynamo, that would play at a revamped city facility.
“This is a massive investment. It’s an investment with player development as the priority,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday. “We’re doing our due diligence and looking at options of where we want to put our USL PRO team. The coaches would be Houston Dynamo coaches, and the players would be part of our system. It would be our system top down.”
The deal is contingent on the city raising funds for improvements to McAllen Sports Park, and the club is targeting 2016 to get the team on the field.
Canetti confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that the club is also looking into several other options, location-wise, but declined to divulge details, outside of confirming that keeping the club in Houston is still under consideration. Such a move would be similar to the LA Galaxy’s setup with their USL PRO side, LA Galaxy II.
“It’s nothing against the agreements we’ve had or have with [current USL PRO partner] Pittsburgh, but I think the ideal model is Los Angeles and what they’re doing with Galaxy II,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It’s right there, and obviously we’d love to have something a little closer if not something close by in the state of Texas would be a benefit.”
The direct access and control over the team is appealing for the development of potential first-team talent.
“The Galaxy have done it right, and they have the facilities to do that too,” Kinnear said. “So to watch the teams train, to watch the teams play and if you need to run players back and forth, you just walk across the hallway. That’s the ideal situation, and we’re all trying to get that.”
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McAllen, about an hour’s flight from Houston, provides better access than any other existing USL PRO side could provide. But it’s also far enough away to prevent an “across the hall” situation like the Galaxy have.
That sacrifice could be made to make for a more commercial-friendly environment in a market that would embrace the team as its own. Canetti pointed to the city’s NBA franchise, the Houston Rockets, and their work with an NBA D-League team in which they develop players and coaches and try out strategies.
Putting the team in a market that is not saturated by other sports would help its commercial viability and could defray costs.
“It’s not uncommon in sports to have a major league team with a minor league operation in a separate market, and this would be no different,” Canetti said. “The objective is to take it to a smaller market within a geographic area where the team can be a mainstay in the community and something that people really connect with.”
As for a 2015 USL PRO affiliation, the club is currently evaluating options.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.