HOUSTON — All eyes will on BBVA Stadium in Houston when Mexican striker and new LA Galaxy superstar Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez makes his MLS debut against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday (3:30 pm ET | Univison, TUDN, Twitter in the US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada). And the local team is using the Chicharito hype to their advantage.
President of Business Operations for the Dynamo and the NWSL’s Houston Dash John Walker said the phone did ring a little bit more than usual when it was confirmed that Hernandez was moving to MLS and would debut against the Dynamo, and the club did see an increase in sales, but it was across all games, not just for the match against Galaxy.
While there is certainly a strong tone of interest in seeing Hernandez in his first MLS match, the Dynamo feel like they have a couple of stars of their own that can attract soccer aficionados.
“I think we are very proud of the stars that will be wearing the Dynamo kit this year, Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis, Darwin Quintero among others," said Walker. "Those guys are really exciting players and they give us a chance to win every night, but I think it's also important that MLS as a league is starting to attract some pretty big names and I think that’s good for everyone."
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Still, the Houston home opener has received a lot of extra attention because of Hernandez, which Walker takes as a positive and hopes it will serve to turn some new fans Houston’s way.
“I think it’s okay if there are fans of these star players, even if they are on another team, who want to come to a Dynamo match," Walker said. "We hope they have a good time when they are here, we hope we win the game, but that gives us an opportunity to convert people from being a Galaxy fan or a Chicharito fan to becoming a Dynamo fan.”
In the head-to-head action between the sides over the last three years, it's Houston that has the lead with three wins, two ties, and one loss. The Dynamo defended their turf in their last home game of 2019 against Galaxy, winning 4-2, and the team is trying to do the same their first game of 2020.
New Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos is aware of the challenges that his team will face in the home opener, but feels confident that they can get the win, especially because the Galaxy have high-profile players that have a lot of film to study.
“LA has a great team ‘cause it's not just Javier Hernandez up top, [Aleksandar] Katai one side and [Cristian] Pavón on the other side. Those three are as good as any three in the league and they are dangerous, obviously,” said Ramos. “If they get their opportunities they punish teams, so it will be difficult. We are aware of that but obviously we are going in to win the game.”
As far as feeling more pressure due to the highly marketed game, Ramos and Co. say they are taking a level-headed approach and feel they can thrive off all the attention.
“So, I wouldn’t have it any other way," declared Ramos. "I am glad that we are having a big game, a strong team to start against and I think it will show us a little where we are at this point."
Adding on to what Ramos said, MLS newcomer and Dynamo goalkeeper Marko Maric said the pressure is on both teams because it’s the first game and everybody wants to get their season off on the right foot.
“I mean Chicharito is a big name in football, but we are all human beings, he is older like me," said Maric. "But I think we don’t have to put the focus on Chicharito or the strikers, we have to put the focus on our team and our work. To make the game harder and win, even if they have Chicharito."