Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dynamo Keep Looking South for their DP

Last Saturday morning, while he was in town to promote the fights taking place that evening at Houston’s Toyota Center, Oscar de la Hoya stopped by Estadio Robertson to chat with reporters while watching his Houston Dynamo host the Montreal Impact in a 70 minute practice match. While most of the de la Hoya press conference focused on the impending fights, Houston’s own Juan “The Baby Bull” Diaz, and de la Hoya’s future as a boxer, de la Hoya did discuss the team that his Golden Boy Promotions bought an interest in just over a year ago. In addition to expressing his opinion that a stadium deal among the Dynamo, the City of Houston, and Harris County was going to be finalized soon, de la Hoya also indicated his desire that the Dynamo sign a big name player from Mexico; however, he did not commit to a time from for such a signing and he did not indicate that he had any particular player in mind.

Little did we in the press know that the Houston Dynamo had already set their sights on Omar Bravo and were actively courting the Mexican striker. Bravo made his debut with Club Deportivo Guadalajara on August 20, 2001, and went on to score 101 goals over 258 appearances for Chivas. The only Chivas player with more goals then Bravo is Salvador Reyes who scored 122 goals. This past summer, Bravo parted ways with Chivas and signed with La Liga’s Deportivo La Coruña, where he made 9 appearances and scored his only goal against Málaga CF.

Late last month news emerged that Bravo would be returning to Mexico on a 4 month loan to UANL Tigres - a loan deal that could turn into a permanent transfer. But the news had emerged before a deal was finalized and the Houston Dynamo quietly expressed their interest in obtaining Bravo’s services and signing him as the club’s first designated player.

In his blog on on Friday morning, Dynamo COO, Chris Canetti, finally addressed the Dynamo’s close but failed effort to sign Bravo. Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear, who is well acquainted with Mexican soccer and Omar Bravo, was very interested in adding Bravo to his team’s offense, giving it that extra offensive firepower that so many fear was lost with the departure of Dwayne De Rosario.

The Dynamo have not provided detailed information on the course and status of the Bravo negotiations, but the Dynamo believed they had a serious shot at landing Bravo and are uncertain as to why he chose to go to Tigres instead of Houston. In the end, Tigres is pay $500,000.00 for the loan and then could acquire Bravo by paying a $4.3 million transfer fee this summer. In light of these figures, it is possible that the MLS front office balked at coughing up the necessary money to bring Bravo to the Dynamo, but the team contends that the league was in full support of the Dynamo’s efforts to bring Bravo to the MLS. More likely, it had to do with Bravo concluding that his best shot at securing a starting spot with El Tri would be playing in Mexico.

After the failed effort to sign Luis Angel Landin earlier in this MLS off-season, it is not surprising that the Dynamo kept their efforts to sign Bravo quiet. What is clear is that the Dynamo, a team that has won two MLS Cups without relying on the designated player rule, is seriously open to signing a designated player and the team has seemingly set its sights on offensive talent from our southern neighbor. That being said, Canetti is still making it clear that the team is weighing several factors in determining who they go after, factors that include age, position, ability, talent, contract status, style, attitude, salary requirements, and, yes, marketability.

Had the Dynamo signed Bravo, who just turned 29 this week, it would have marked the biggest signing going into the 2009 MLS season. Not only did Bravo make a name for himself by playing at and being the poster boy for one of Mexico’s most popular, and hated, clubs, but he has 55 caps and 14 goals for the Mexican National Team, including a brace in Mexico’s match against Iran in the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, the Dynamo would have legitimized the club in the eyes of football fans in Mexico. That’s not meant as a knock against the Dynamo, who already have a good reputation in Mexico, but Dynamo jersey sales would have shot up south of the border in the same manner that Blanco’s time at Real Valladolid Club de Fútbol legitimized that Spanish side in Mexico and had football fans in Mexico wearing the purple and white kits in public.

One of the interesting points made to me by my colleague Rey Gallegos is that not only have the Dynamo been eyeing soccer players in Mexico, but the club has been pursuing Mexican players who are equipped to handle the physical play of the MLS. Landin stands about 6 feet and has the physicality to handle the rough play of the MLS, while Bravo was an amateur boxer who knows how to employ the physical traits of that sport while on the soccer pitch.

It is the patient yet persistent approach that the Dynamo have shown on the pitch these past few years, resulting in the team becoming on of the top clubs currently in the MLS, that the club appears to be employing in its efforts to sign a designated player. The question is not if the Dynamo will sign a DP, it is when and who will it be? Based on the team’s recent efforts, the answers are likely to be soon and someone who will contribute positively both on and off the pitch.

- Special thanks to Rey Gallegos for his insight on Bravo and the Beautiful Game in Mexico.

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