Ecstatic supporters catapulted streamers into the crowd and onto the field of BBVA Compass Stadium when their team, the Houston Dynamo, scored. Some seats were stocked with streamers to throw during the game, while some devoted fans supplied their own. A group of kids gallivanted around field, their job being to retrieve streamers before play resumed. By the end of this rainy September night, lots of orange and white streamers had flown around the stadium, as the Dynamo clinched their first U.S. Open Cup in club history, beating the Philadelphia Union 3–0.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was first contested in 1914 as the National Challenge Cup. It’s a national soccer tournament that gives both professional teams (from Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League, and the United Soccer League) and amateur squads the chance to compete for a trophy, prize money, and perhaps the most attractive incentive, a ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League.
In September’s final, led by a fourth-minute goal from forward Mauro Manotas, the Dynamo took an early lead. Later in the game, Manotas’ second goal tied the U.S. Open Cup modern-era record for most goals by a player in a single tournament. The final goal scored was by Auston Trusty of the Union, an own goal in the 65th minute that dramatically lessened any chance they had to come back.
“It hasn’t been easy, but now we can say that we know how to win, how to win a title,” said Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera.
The Dynamo have three primary groups of supporters: El Batallon, the Texian Army, and the newest one, the Brickwall Firm. El Batallon came out in full force with loud horns, huge flags, and a lot of spirit. Hard-core supporters initiated the noise and soon brought casual fans and first-time game-goers into the mix.
While MLS matches don’t draw the same kinds of crowds that football or baseball games do in most cities, Dynamo fans are uniquely loyal. For almost the entire game, supporters blew into their horns, pounded drums, rigorously waved flags, and sang for their team. The Texian Army held up an enormous Texas flag after each goal. Fans collectively celebrated by singing their goal song, “Go Dynamo.”
After the game, the team jumped excitedly on the stage, where players decked out in medals posed for pictures while holding up a shiny trophy, the U.S. Open Cup.
Players celebrated by promenading about the field, standing in front of the crowd, thanking fans, and throwing special souvenirs out. They made the rounds, hugging family members, posing for pictures, and signing merchandise for passionate fans in the stands.
The rainy weather didn’t stop fans from having an exceptional time. There were many first-time attendees at the game, including 12-year-old Brandon. He described the atmosphere as good and crazy as he and his friends roamed the packed concourse of the stadium.
The Danner family, season ticket-holders for three years, arrived early before the game to support the Dynamo. Reef, a seven-year-old whose favorite player is Houston winger Romell Quioto, expressed that the atmosphere was loud and fun.
Fans are at the heart of Major League Soccer growth in the United States, and you’ll see there’s no question about it if you go to a game. The teams and their groups of loyal fans create an atmosphere that encourages casual fans to partake in the action and come back for more.
Top photograph by Bob Levey/Getty Images