Beyond The Boxscore

Where the stars go: Sports celebs flock to new Dynamo stadium opener — yes, soccer is trending

Where the stars go: Sports celebs flock to new Dynamo stadium opener — yes, soccer is trending

Brad Davis first goal Dynamo stadium
Brad Davis scored the goal — then raced to celebrate with the Dynamo's most loyal fans. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Oscar De La Hoya Dynamo
One of the greatest boxers ever? Check. Oscar De La Hoya was just one of the big-time sports celebs in the house. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Oliver Luck & Andrew Luck Dynamo
Oliver Luck  (blindingly bright orange jacket) and Peyton Manning successor Andrew Luck (orange shoes) also made the game. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Brad Davis Dynamo going for ball
Brad Davis' determination could be seen on a day when the Houston Dynamo would not be denied. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Orange Helicopter Flyover Dynamo
The orange helicopter flyover was a nice, different take on flyovers. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_BBVA Compass Stadium_Houston Dynamo_stadium
BBVA Compass Stadium is already the best sports arena in Houston. Houston Dynamo/Facebook
Houston Dynamo opener action
The Houston Dynamo's new stadium opener could not have gone much better for the home team. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Houston Dynamo opener action two
The Dynamo had a ton of chances before finally breaking through in the 67th minute. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Brad Davis first goal Dynamo stadium
Oscar De La Hoya Dynamo
Oliver Luck & Andrew Luck Dynamo
Brad Davis Dynamo going for ball
Orange Helicopter Flyover Dynamo
News_BBVA Compass Stadium_Houston Dynamo_stadium
Houston Dynamo opener action
Houston Dynamo opener action two

There is the quarterback who pushed out Peyton Manning, grinning from ear to ear like the soccer nerd he sort of is. J.J. Watt is in the house too, one of the NFL's emerging defensive superstars, the guy his coach is already comparing to Howie Long, dealing with the literal heat of being in the front row.

One of the greatest boxers in history is in the building too.

Someone jokes with Oliver Luck, the former NFL quarterback turned first Houston Dynamo president and general manager turned new-age Archie Manning, that Houston's MLS franchise will be able to boast that a future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback attended its first game at BBVA Compass Stadium. "You must be talking about Matt Schaub," Andrew Luck's father shoots back.

Oh yes, the Houston Texans starting quarterback is also here. Who isn't?

 Soccer's not just arrived — it's kicking down the door and taking numbers (credit card numbers). 

At a soccer game . . . The game, the event in all of Houston. On a day when the Art Car Parade rolls through H-Town, one of the most beautiful Saturdays we're likely to see in a long while (maybe till October), there is no doubt what's the toughest ticket in town. There is only one place to be, only one phrase that can cause envy, and it's "I'm at the Dynamo game."

Soccer's not just arrived — it's kicking down the door and taking numbers (credit card numbers).

The signs are all over BBVA Compass Stadium on the official opening day. The Dynamo beat D.C. United 1-0 on one of the most beautiful goals you'll ever see from Brad Davis — followed by a celebration for the ages. But this day goes far beyond that. It's a celebration of the possibilities in front of 22,039 — every one of whom is likely to tell at least 10 people how great it all is.

Including Andrew Luck, Oscar De La Hoya, J.J. Watt and Matt Schaub — major American sports stars who truly wanted to be at the opening of the soccer team's new home.

If you don't think that fact alone's huge for soccer in Houston, you're oblivious to the larger sports landscape. The Dynamo always held the hearts of dedicated pockets of soccer fanatics. But now, with this stadium, they're a hot ticket. Suddenly, it's cool to be a soccer fan in Houston.

"This is really the first time that the kids who grew up playing soccer in the '80s and the '90s are old enough to bring their own kids to soccer games," Oliver Luck says. "They don't have to be convinced by their kids to go to a game. The parents want to go to the game themselves.

"No one's saying that the NFL is quaking in its boots. But this is something for soccer."

It's something for Houston too. Who would have ever thought that you'd have this type of big event feel in the East End? But there the people are, reaching Minute Maid Park and walking right on by, deeper into the city, right into something new.

"I was just looking for the roar, " Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear says afterwards. "The roar from the first goal."

The Perfect Moment

Everyone waits for it. For no short while.

The Dynamo put plenty of pressure on in the first half, but that first BBVA Compass goal proves elusive. Never more so than when Je-Vaughn Watson sends a perfect chance in the box screaming high over the net in first-half stoppage time.

D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid — who lost his starting job earlier this season — is rising to the occasion as well, making those eager Dynamo all the more anxious.

 "No one's saying that the NFL is quaking in its boots," Oliver Luck says. "But this is something for soccer." 

But when it happens in the 67th minute . . . what a beauty. In a flash. It almost comes out of nowhere, with Davis turning and firing from a good 10 yards outside of the box, arching a shot over Hamid, from a seemingly impossible angle.

Suddenly, it's in the back of the net — and the roar of roars is filling the stadium that puts the fans so close to scream.

"What a great first goal," Dynamo goalie Tally Hall says later in the locker room, shaking his head at the skill from Davis, one of the two original Dynamo left.

After scoring, Davis almost seems to wait for Brian Ching — the other original, the man who seems to have scored every other milestone goal in Dynamo history — to catch up, before leaping over the first waist-high barrier that separates the field from the stands. Davis and Ching almost take the two steps across concrete to reach the Dynamo's supporters section and another short barrier, together. Davis and Ching will get in there with their people, the loudest of the fanatics who did their best to make ancient, football-built Robertson Stadium seem like a proper home for all those years.

Call it the Dynamo's version of the Lambeau Leap — the Dynamo Dive.

It seems like Davis and Ching have planned this celebration (though both men later deny that). "You don't plan for something like that," Ching says. "At least we don't."

When you've waited six years for a home of your own, you do have some time to imagine though.

 If there's a better way to open a stadium, I'd like to see it.

"I would have been happy if the ref headed (a goal) in for us," Kinnear jokes. He's a coach. He deals in practicalities. A coach just wants the win. History demands a little more though. And these Dynamo seem to sense that.

"We've been waiting for this day for a long time," Davis says. "A lot of people in this city have . . . I just wanted to soak up the moment."

The Dynamo do it by seizing the sun-kissed day.

It's a 20 to 4 advantage for the Dynamo in shots. Houston simply overwhelms a team ahead of it in the standings. In truth, this easily could be a 3-0 game. Ching misses three prime chances inside the box himself. On the last, he crumbles into the new grass, still quite not believing.

"I was a little off today," Ching laughs later. Who could blame him with so much on?

The Party

As "This is Home" played over the stadium speakers, seemingly every politician in Houston gets introduced. The unveiling of the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Championship banners on the overhang high over one of the goals is nice (even if getting the black covering off is harder than anyone anticipated). But the real thrill of the pregame comes in the unconventional fly over of high-speed orange helicopters rather than fighter jets.

Helicopters can get a lot closer than jets — fitting for a stadium that doesn't believe in keeping the fans at a distance.

 Some of the concession stands hand out samples, like you're shopping at Central Market rather than deciding whether to spend $8 on a barbecue sandwich or on taco nachos. 

The Dynamo's new stadium is not dominated by a scoreboard (a la Cowboys Stadium). It's not dominated by quirks (a la the hill in center field, or the home run train at Minute Maid Park). It's dominated by the action on the field.

That's where everything is focused. It's all about providing the best view of what's happening on the field — whether you're in one of the suites only nine rows from the playing surface or at the very top of the place in section 214, Row T.

The wild storm that turned Friday night into a lightning show — and put many Dynamo executives on edge — is long gone by the time the stadium opens. Even Houston's unpredictable weather cedes to the big day.

Little first-class touches abound. Some of the concession stands hand out samples, like you're shopping at Central Market rather than deciding whether to spend $8 on a barbecue sandwich or on taco nachos. Smiles are the order of the day as The Compass seems determined to become the friendliest arena in Texas.

Watt — the Houston Texans emerging star — is sitting in the front row, soaking it all up. De La Hoya — the boxing great turned Dynamo minority owner — is in the house as well. You could do a lot worse for celebrity rows.

Fourteen of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer have their own soccer-specific stadium now, but the Dynamo's is the only one that's part of a city. On day one, a good dozen fans mention to me how they're surprised by how close the place is to Minute Maid Park. Another part of Houston is opening up for many — an area they'd never have even thought of walking toward before.

New season ticket holders Stephanie Fulton and Liz Brackeen plan to ride their bikes to most games. Soccer in America tends to draw these types of eco commuters more than other sports. To be a soccer fanatic in a land that worships the other football, you almost have to look at things a little differently.

It turns out this stadium may make people look at Houston a little differently too.

"To me, the most important thing is where this stadium is," Luck says, his blindingly bright orange jacket showing just how much he still bleeds for this franchise. "It means everything that it's right by Minute Maid, that you can see the skyscrapers of downtown from here, with the energy companies and the law firms nearby."

Suddenly, it's the place to be — a soccer stadium in the East End. That's where the celebs from other sports want to roam. Talk about a farfetched dream come true.

"Coolest day ever," 10-year-old Houston native Angelina Martinez says, echoing the thoughts of many of the Dynamo pros.

Soccer's more than trending. Who knows what can happen now?