Friday, August 17, 2012

Thoughts on Les Alexander's Reported Interest in Buying the Houston Dynamo

Yesterday afternoon, Mark Berman over at Fox 26 here in Houston reported that Leslie Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets, was in negotiations to purchase the Houston Dynamo. Not surprisingly, the reaction of Dynamo fans on Twitter was not very positive, in my opinion, the concerns of these fans are misplaced.

The Dynamo are currently owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), Oscar de la Hoya, and Gabriel Brener, all based in California, not Houston. As most MLS fans and all Dynamo fans know, AEG also owns the Los Angeles Galaxy, which has amounted to the Dynamo being the red headed stepchild of the AEG family, hoping to at least get some of the table scraps discarded by the favorite son, the Galaxy.

Despite the absentee ownership situation, the Dynamo have managed to win two MLS Championships, have made it to the MLS playoffs in all but one season, and even made it back to the MLS Cup final last season, where they lost to the Galaxy. As of this season, the Dynamo occupy a brand new stadium in the form of BBVA Compass Stadium and have managed to become one of the hottest tickets in Houston. The Dynamo are a franchise and brand that most any professional sports team owner would be proud of, but they still don't seem to get much attention from their current owners.

Enter Les Alexander, a resident Houstonian who bought the Houston Rockets in 1993, who is apparently interested in buying out all three of the Dynamo's current owners. Despite the concerns of many a Dynamo fan, I think it would be a great thing for Les Alexander to take over the ownership of the Dynamo, he has a proven record of being the kind of owner who is willing to do what it takes to put a winning product out there for the fans.

Those of you concerned with an Alexander ownership are probably looking at that last sentence and scratching your collective head.

Yes, the Rockets have been fairly abysmal recently, caught in the NBA purgatory of not being good enough to make the playoffs and not being bad enough to take advantage of the lottery. But, some of us remember 1994 and 1995, the back to back NBA Championship victories brought to Houston by Alexander's Rockets, the first real professional sports championships ever brought to Houston (in the early years of the American Football League, the Houston Oilers won a couple championships, but considering how the AFL was regarded it's hard to put those in the same league as what the Rockets did in the 1990s). In the late 1990s, Alexander took a gamble on the fledgling WNBA and his Houston Comets won the first four WNBA Championships.

In the years since 1995, the Rockets have made some runs in the NBA playoffs but have not been able to make it back to the finals, but that, and the current woes of the Rockets, are not a major indictment of Alexander as an owner. Alexander is no stingy Drayton McLane, the man has been willing to write big checks, Drayton would not have brought a Tracy McGrady to town. With Yao Ming and McGrady heading up a strong supporting cast, the Rockets could have made it to at least one or more NBA finals, but for the constant injuries suffered by said players, not to mention McGrady's whining and checking out near the end of his stint in Houston.

Despite his willingness to spend money on talent, Alexander is no Jerry Jones, he does not act like he's the owner, general manager, and coach of his team. Alexander is smart enough to know what he does not know and willing to hire people to fill that knowledge gap and run the day to day affairs. I know many current Rockets fans have issues with Daryl Morey, the current General Manager of the Rockets and someone who occasionally tells Alexander to put the checkbook away, who has managed to put together solid, mid-table teams, but has been unable to lure a big name, a top player to the Rockets since the retirement of Yao Ming. I think some of the criticism is correct, but some of it is misplaced considering the current state of the NBA and the personal preferences of the league's top players who seem interested in creating superteams on the right and left coasts.

Considering how well Dynamo President Chris Canetti and Coach Dominic Kinnear have been able to cobble together winning teams despite the constraints of the current ownership situation, it is unlikely that Alexander will make any management changes if he buys the Dynamo. If anything, Alexander's willingness to open up his sizable checkbook will help Canetti and Kinnear in their efforts to sign players that AEG et al balked at buying. As an owner, Alexander will put the Dynamo on the same level as the Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and RedBull New York in the sense that the team could afford to have multiple designated players, if Canetti and Kinnear so wished.

As an owner, Alexander will take advantage of the Dynamo brand and work to extend its market, especially its market beyond the shores of the United States. The lessons learned during the Yao Ming era will likely be applied to the Dynamo. While this might include signing a Mexican player with commercial appeal in Mexico, don't be surprised if Alexander attempts to get the Dynamo into more "exotic" and financial lucrative markets.

The time has come for the Dynamo to get free of AEG, to get free of the conflicts created by AEG's ownership of the Galaxy. The Dynamo could do a lot worse being sold to someone other than Les Alexander, but considering Alexander's commitment to Houston and his track record as a professional sports team owner, you would be hard pressed to find many better potential owners.

As Rudy T said: "Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion!"

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Even after all these years, seeing John Starks so sad makes me smile.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hope Solo On MSNBC's Morning Joe

USWNT Goal Keeper Hope Solo made an appearance this morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the team's winning the gold medal in London, her new memoir, and the various "controversies" that seem to surround her.

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United States Gets Historic Win at Estadio Azteca

With an unlikely goal by Michael Orozco Fiscal in the 80th minute of last night's international friendly between Mexico and the United States at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, history was made as the United States beat Mexico, 1-0.

For the first time in its 75 year history, the United States, featuring a young, cobbled together squad, managed to beat their CONCACAF rival, Mexico, on Mexican soil. It was just a friendly, and a mid-August friendly at that, but it is proof-positive to the US National Team that it is possible for them to beat Mexico at the forbidding Azteca.

Despite the historic win, this was not necessarily one of the best performances by the United States. For the bulk of the match, Mexico controlled the ball, primarily in the US's half, and out-shot the US. In fact, but for the goal keeping of Everton's Tim Howard, Mexico should have picked up at least four goals.

The fact that Mexico was putting so much attacking pressure on the US, but was unable to score, highlights one of the bright spots for the US, its defense. The combination of Howard in goal and Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Edgar Castillo, and Fabian Johnson on the back line showed great strides in the ability of the US team to shut down the attack; however, clearing the ball is something the defense still needs to work on.

The US's midfield was a bit of shambles, failing to play much of a role in either the defense or attack. The absence of Michael Bradley, who is now with A.S. Roma, and Clint Dempsey was evident in the midfield's ability to accomplish anything positive for the US. Meanwhile, Landon Donovan was apparently hampered by his left hamstring and left the match after halftime.

Herculez Gomez started the match as the lone forward but it's hard to put 100% of the blame for the US's lackluster attack during the first 77 minutes of the match on Gomez's shoulders since he wasn't getting much service from the midfield. The fact that the US only started one forward is disappointing not because US Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has promised a more attacking style from his side, but more because history tells us that the US tends to attack poorly when it only has one player up top.

Next up for the United States is the start of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying as they travel to Kingston, Jamaica to face the Jamaican National Team on September 7, 2012. The win over Mexico should give the US some good momentum going into the qualifiers and should give them a boost of confidence the next time they face Mexico at the Azteca, which, should be, a match that matters in the hexagonal.