Rebrands tend to draw a lot of attention, and strong opinions, and so it is for the refreshed look of the Houston Dynamo and their NWSL sibling club the Dash that was unveiled on Tuesday. But the club’s leaders want the visual shift to serve as a representation of a deeper change.
“We just finished our 15th season here in Houston and so we thought that was a good time to celebrate the past, which we did throughout the year, and create a new platform for the next chapter of the club. So this is just one of many changes,” club president John Walker told MLSsoccer.com after the big reveal.
“This is much more than just a change to the marks. This is a new day in how we operate and how folks should should view our commitment to the city, and wanting to be Houston’s teams.”
Few clubs have ever introduced themselves to a new community more endearingly than the Dynamo, who won back-to-back MLS Cup titles upon their arrival in the Bayou City from San Jose ahead of the 2006 season and qualified for the playoffs in seven of their first eight years in town, including two more trips to the cup final.
That sustained success helped La Naranja earn a devoted following, and a downtown stadium of their own. More recently they’ve fallen on harder times and Walker frames the new identity as a statement of devotion to H-town and the sprawling metropolis that rings it.
“When [BBVA] Stadium opened in 2012, we had a tremendous season-ticket number at that point. And just over the last few years, the performance on the pitch hasn't been great; that's led to a little fan apathy and again I think the organization as a whole maybe lost focus on what it meant to be this city's team,” he said.
“So ever since I arrived we've been more focused on that. We created a strategic plan to help address many areas of our club and married many initiatives that we can roll out to help bolster our standing and our relevance in the city. So, again, this is just sort of a visual representation of that, but there's a lot of other meat on the bone, if you will, relative to how we're trying to reposition ourselves.”
With marketing agency 9th Wonder signed on to assist the creative process, the new, more minimalist Dynamo and Dash crests contain tributes to Houston’s culture and geography, and give the city's name pride of place. Their trademark orange will remain, while the black accent color that’s made for popular alternate kits in recent seasons has been dialed up.
In a nod to the region's Western heritage and sweat-inducing summers (and perhaps the COVID-19 era of face coverings too), La Naranja also aim to elevate the orange bandana as a symbol of devotion like the scarf for supporters in cooler locales. Fans can get one free by filling out an interest form on the club's website.
“When we talked to the fans, they said 'we liked the Dynamo name, we like the Dash name, we like the orange, we like the black.' So we kept all that,” explained Walker, who joined the club two years ago and says the idea of a brand refresh was already being discussed – both in Houston and at league headquarters – at that point.
“We used a little creative liberty, maybe a little intentional thought to try and draw a deeper connection with the city, and this is the result. The folks who worked on it did an amazing job.”
Walker noted that the new crests and addition of the traditional “FC” tag also dovetail with the Dynamo and Dash’s push to upgrade their academy system and the ambitious network of youth soccer offerings alongside it. Houston have poured significant resources into player identification and development, setting up a homestay program for talented kids from outside the region and partnering with respected youth guru Tom Byer and his “Soccer Starts At Home” early-childhood program.
“We're a great soccer market and there's no better place to see that than in the youth leagues around Houston,” said Walker, adding that connecting with the youth soccer community can reap both homegrown players and supporters over the long term. “It's just an enormously popular thing. And so we know there's a lot of talent there, we know there are future fans there. And we've not done a good enough job cultivating that over the years.”
More immediately, the Dynamo are committed to first-year head coach Tab Ramos’s project with the first team and Walker hinted at a roster overhaul this winter.
“Tab just finished his first season; he inherited a roster that was built for one style of play. He knew that coming in, he said 'I'll try and get these guys to play my style,'” Walker said. “We did so effectively a few times – by the very nature that we had nine ties this year, we were competitive in a bunch of games, but for whatever reason we couldn't get it done towards the end of those matches, so it was very frustrating for him and for our fans as well.
“But we really strongly believe that the style of play he's implemented, and him having one season under his belt, and the ability this offseason to really bring in guys who can play his style. He wants to get younger, he wants to get more athletic, so that that pressing style we can be more effective in. And it's an exciting brand of soccer to watch.”