Derby matches throughout MLS share some key ingredients, including passionate exchanges by fans and matches played with intensity. Those elements are all present for the Texas Derby between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo, with dramatic goals, wide-open games and more than a few red cards tossed in there.
There’s always so much to play for, with the winner getting arguably the coolest regular-season award around: El Capitan, a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon.
Speaking of Cannon, FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon expressed what these annual showdowns mean to him.
"There's always been a huge rivalry between Houston and Dallas," Cannon said in May. "Coming up through the academy, it's pretty apparent that if you lost that game they would leave on the bus cheering and everything. It was always a sense of urgency playing Houston. You want to be the dominant team in Texas and those are the two top teams.”
Perhaps fittingly, the teams have evenly shared El Capitan over the years, 7-7. The Dynamo enjoyed early dominance, winning five of the first seven, with FC Dallas returning the favor over the next seven years.
Roots of the Rivalry
An MLS original, FC Dallas laid claim to being Texas’ only team for the first nine years of MLS. But when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston, a new rivalry was born in 2006.
While the hatred wasn’t quite there yet, the intensity was from the first match – a wild, seven-goal thriller at Robertson Stadium on May 6, 2006. The Dynamo flexed their muscles and raced out to a 3-0 first-half leads on goals by Ricardo Clark, Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario.
Goals a minute apart by Carlos Ruiz and Ramon Nunez at the hour mark pulled the visitors to within a goal before DeRo struck for his second six minutes later. Drew Moor scored what proved to be a cosmetic goal in the 76th minute, and first blood in the Texas Derby was drawn by the Dynamo.
If familiarity breeds contempt, there were 11 meetings between the teams – eight regular season, one U.S. Open Cup and two MLS Cup Playoffs – in the first two years.
It didn’t take long for the blood to boil between the teams with an incident on Sept. 30, 2007 going down as one of the most infamous in MLS history.
On a late set piece, Ruiz drove his knee into Clark's back, who regularly drew the assignment to defend El Pescadito. As the two tumbled to the ground, Clark sprang up and kicked Ruiz in the chest, though the Guatemala international rolled around holding his head.
“At first, you’re staring at it in disbelief, thinking, ‘Did that really just happen?’ and then afterwards, there was an internal giggle,” former Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson told MLSsoccer.com in 2017. “I can say there were probably quite a few players around the league that were like, ‘Take that, Carlos, take that.’ Overall when it comes to crazy moments in league history, it’s in the top five.”
Both were sent off for their actions and Clark received a nine-game suspension and a $10,000 fine.
“It was a thing where we were going at it all game; it wasn’t just that instance,” Clark told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought he’d kneed me in the back. I just reached out, and I just hit a zone where it was no thinking. I was on autopilot.
“I just remember being pulled back,” Clark continued. “I remember a yell from Wade [Barrett]. I think Wade saw it coming and yelled something, and I remember hitting [Ruiz] and just pandemonium after that. Most of my players had my back. Eddie [Robinson], as always, was the first one over there to have my back and to stand up for me. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a full-out brawl after that, which is why I was protecting myself.”
Ugo Ihemelu scored six goals in 185 career MLS games, including a late winner that gave FC Dallas their first win in Houston in 2010. He struck again against the Dynamo a year later, but it was his “Weekend at Bernie’s” inspired celebration that was most memorable in a 2-2 deadlock on May 28, 2011.
“That game was a struggle,” Ihemelu remembers. “Every game against them was such a fight. I was sucking wind, I couldn’t breathe, and it felt like a weight was lifted off me when we scored, and that was the reason for the celebration.” As for the Bernie dance, he shrugs, “That’s just what came out. If I scored a goal today, I think I’d probably do the dab.”
One of the wildest Texas Derby showdowns occurred on Aug. 23, 2017 in Frisco – a six-goal thriller that resulted in the third draw between the sides that season and was recently reprised as part of the "MLS Classics" series.
Erick Torres scored a late brace, including the 86th-minute equalizer, giving him the club single-season scoring record, surpassing the record of 13 set by Brian Ching in 2008.
MLS regular season
There’s been 35 all-time regular-season meetings between FC Dallas and Houston. FC Dallas have 11 wins, the Dynamo have 11 wins and there’s been 13 draws.
The derby was decidedly Orange early on, but the tide turned for Dallas in 2013 when Kenny Cooper scored the 90th-minute winner in the lone regular-season meeting that year (Houston were in the Eastern Conference at the time). That started a stretch of seven consecutive wins for FCD in all competitions and victories in nine of 11 matches.
That was broken in a big way on March 12, 2016 when the Dynamo erupted for a 5-0 victory at BBVA Stadium, with four goals coming in the opening 30 minutes. It's still the most lopsided result in Texas Derby history.
Houston would win just once more – 2-1 on May 4, 2019 thanks to a Mauro Manotas brace – with the teams playing to a deadlock in five consecutive matches from May 28, 2017 to August 23, 2018. On the latter date, Ronaldo Pena's first MLS goal was the equalizer two minutes from full time.
“This goal is dedicated to my mother, who recently underwent surgery,” Pena said after the game. “I pictured it last night and, because of the family situation that we have now, I prayed to God and he thankfully gave me the opportunity to score.”
U.S. Open Cup
There have been four all-time U.S. Open Cup meetings and, like the MLS regular season, La Naranja claimed victory in the first encounter. That was a 3-0 quarterfinal win on Aug. 23, 2006, with Robinson opening the scoring in the 13th minute and Alejandro Moreno and Chris Wondolowski tallying four minutes apart in the second half.
FC Dallas exacted revenge seven years later when Copper struck twice in a 3-0 fourth-round win on June 12, 2013.
The teams met twice more in the next three years, and FCD won both meetings. One included a stoppage-time winner by Fabian Castillo in the quarterfinals en route to the 2016 title, the club’s second.
MLS Cup Playoffs
With so much history and animosity, strangely their only MLS Cup Playoffs meeting came back in 2007. Clarence Goodson scored the lone goal of the first leg of the Conference Semifinals in Frisco, but the Dynamo erupted in the second leg for a 4-1 extra-time victory.