You can feel it coming. It's like a wave building, forward push after forward push, roar after roar. The New York Red Bulls know they cannot stop it.
The best team in Major League Soccer is just trying to hold on. Logic dictates that Thierry Henry's team should be in complete command. The Red Bulls jump out to a 2-0 lead on a foe they've dominated all season long.
Logic doesn't live in the BBVA Compass Stadium's stands though. And as the long rolls of orange confetti and toilet paper fly from the end line supporters section — as the security guards vainly stare into the sea or orange to try and pick out the offenders — you can almost feel Henry and his teammates buckle a little more. This isn't a first-rate soccer town?
That's what some soccer ignorant media folks try to argue after a crowd of less than 10,000 show for the Dynamo's first playoff match — an affair stupidly scheduled for Halloween night by a league that's supposed to care about kids. This Sunday — more than 20,000 back in the stands — and another Dynamo playoff moment later from the one pro sports franchise in Houston that always seems to deliver them, the doubt's free kicked to oblivion.
The rising noise from the stands, the crescendo cresting, plays no small role in the bickering Red Bulls' impending sense of doom.
Just like the idea the Red Bulls don't have to worry. From dead to a 2-2 tie, one secured with a Dynamo goal in the 92nd minute. Henry and friends just want to hold on through the wave. They end up getting pulled under.
"You could feel the tides were turning," Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis says. "You can hear the other team talking on the field, some of their teammates starting to get into each other."
The rising noise from the stands, the crescendo cresting in the second half, plays no small role in the bickering Red Bulls' impending sense of doom. It's easy to take this for granted, unless you've experienced other soccer dead towns.
"The fans did a great job rallying behind us," veteran Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell says.
They always seem to — just like the Dynamo of Dominic Kinnear always seem to rise to the big moment, even when Kinnear himself is exiled to a suite, serving a one-match suspension.
The best team in MLS finds itself in a fight for its life now. New York gets the second and final leg of this playoff series at home Wednesday night, but up 2-0 in Houston after 50 minutes, you know Henry and Co. didn't expect their homecoming to be so fraught with tension.
"Obviously it's not a win, but it kind of feels like that in a way," Davis says.
Red Bulls Rocked
The Red Bull scored 58 goals this season. The unsteady Dynamo put up 41, the fewest of the 10 playoff teams. But they're knotted 2-2 in this aggregate score series now.
New York has the stars — the still sometimes magnificent Henry and resurgent Australian forward Tim Cahill. Houston is still somehow right there. At the end.
By the 32nd minute, it's 2-0 New York with Eric Alexander flying in on a breakaway and faking out Dynamo defender Eric Brunner before whizzing a shot pass Tally Hall. Alexander's over-the-top celebration looks like some twisted version of Aaron Rodgers' Discount Double Check.
The Dynamo's season is hanging by a string. Then, it isn't.
I t's hard to criticize a U.S. soccer crowd — arguably the most kid centric crowd in sports — for not showing up in giant numbers on Halloween.
Midfielder Ricardo Clark is picking off a horrific clear from Red Bulls defender David Carney and sending a shot screaming into the goal in the 51st minute. Then, with opportunity seemingly slipping away, even with those waves of momentum, with the game in its second minute of stoppage time, 120 seconds from an unsatisfying finish, a Davis corner finds Boswell's head and late sub Omar Cummings is there to knock in the rebound.
Boswell is jumping on Cummings' back, celebrating a goal that means everything for the team that refuses to die.
"I rode him," Boswell jokes. "I made sure I was the one doing the jumping on. He's a Jamaican thoroughbred, I knew he could hold me."
Game tied. Series tied. True soccer crowd going bananas.
It's hard to criticize a U.S. soccer crowd — arguably the most kid centric crowd in all of sports — for not showing up in giant numbers on Halloween night. Nevertheless, some did — tweeting irate diatribes from their couch that ripped into the more than half empty stadium for the Dynamo's opening playoff win on trick-or-treat day.
If anything, the no-shows should be praised for putting being a good parent first. The real blame belongs with the clueless MLS schedule makers.
This sunny Sunday is a truer test and it proves that Houston's soccer heartbeat remains strong well into the second season at BBVA, when the be-there-be-seen-new-stadium buzz is largely gone.
A half hour before the opening kick, the line waiting to get into the Dynamo gift shop stretches halfway down the concourse. Across the street in a parking lot, the self-dubbed — with appropriate colorful signage — Blind Beer Tailgaters are still going at it.
If anything, the no-shows should be praised for putting being a good parent first.
EaDo is awash in orange. Former Dynamo star — and current Premier League player — Stuart Holden is in the house, wearing some of the tightest skinny jeans you'll ever see, and he addresses the crowd before the match.
It's hard not to call it a big-time atmosphere. With the sharp green of the field hitting your eye from all over the open concourse, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect venue on a beautiful fall afternoon than BBVA Compass Stadium. It's still arguably the best pure sports stadium in all of Houston sports.
A little time — and a lot less buzz — cannot change that. Forget a fluky Halloween. This is Houston soccer. Who's doubting now?