Looking back

The history of soccer in Houston

Many big names have played on the pitch in Houston. Victor Araiza

It may not win the moniker “Soccer City, USA,” but Houston has grown into one of the hotbeds for big-time soccer events in the United States and is almost sure to host a World Cup match if the competition comes stateside anytime soon.

Houston is rich with soccer history. The earliest pro soccer franchise in the Bayou City dates back to 1967, and attendance records for matches continue to be shattered as the sport grows in the 21st century.

That being said, the casual fan probably doesn’t know about Houston soccer past, so we’ve compiled a list of the professional sports franchises that have called Space City home.

Houston Stars (1967-1968)

The Stars were the first pro soccer team in Houston. They played in the Astrodome and were owned by renowned Houstonian Roy Hofheinz, who, among his many titles, served as Texas state representative, Harris County judge and mayor of Houston.

The Stars averaged 19,802 fans during their inaugural season, the highest of any U.S. soccer team that year. They played in the United Soccer Association, one of two top-tiered leagues in the U.S. The leagues merged the following year to form the North American Soccer League in which the Stars played in 1968 before folding at the end of the season.

Houston Hurricane (1978-1980)

Driven by the arrival of Pele to North America, the Bayou City was again be represented in the North American Soccer League as the Houston Hurricane, one of four expansion teams during the 1978 season. The team called the Astrodome home and donned kits made up of red, white and orange. 

After a tough first year, the Hurricane won the NASL’s Central Division and finished with the league’s best record in its second season. Unfortunately, they would be one-and-done in the playoffs for two straight years before ending operations at the conclusion of their third season.

Houston Summit (1978-1979)

The Summit was an indoor soccer team that played their games at, well, you guessed it, the Summit. The team played in the Major Indoor Soccer League which operated during the NASL offseason. 

Many of the players on the Hurricane squad played on the Summit. After the Hurricane folded, the Summit ceased operations, as the franchise moved to Baltimore.

Houston Dynamos (1984-1991)

Houston tried the soccer experiment again in the mid-'80s with the creation of the Houston Dynamos (plural). The team was a member of the United Soccer League and played at Butler Stadium and Delmar Stadium. 

Unfortunately, the team’s first season was their only in the pros. The club chose not to return to the USL, which folded eight games into the 1985 season, and played friendlies for two years. In 1987 they joined the Lone Star Soccer Alliance, a regional league made up of Texas teams, where they played until their final season in 1991. 

Houston Hotshots (1994-2000)

The return of indoor soccer to the Summit meant a pro soccer team for Houston during the '90s. With the 1994 FIFA World Cup on the horizon and the upcoming founding of a new top division Major League Soccer, it was a big opportunity for Houston to showcase itself as a soccer city.

The Hotshots played in the Continental Indoor Soccer League (CISL) from 1994 to 1997, but, after the league folded, they moved to the World Indoor Soccer League in 1999. Unable to attract investors, the Hotshots closed their doors entering the new millennium. 

Houston Dynamo (2006-present)

After shattering local attendance records with club and international friendlies during the early 2000s, Houston had been clamoring to join MLS. Expansion in the league occurred gradually but an opportunity finally arose when the San Jose Earthquakes were unable to secure a stadium of their own.

With city officials offering a soccer-specific stadium, the Earthquakes roster migrated to Houston. The already built roster that had achieved the league’s best record the previous season was embraced in Houston and delivered back-to-back MLS Cup titles in its first two seasons.

In 2012, the team moved into a stadium of their own built east of downtown Houston known as BBVA Compass Stadium. Over the years, World Cup players have played for the club, and some of the world's best have come to visit.

Houston Dash (2014-present)

An extension by the Houston Dynamo into the women’s game, the Houston Dash are the only professional women’s team in any sport in the city of Houston. The club entered the National Women’s Soccer team in 2014 and plays matches at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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