A SOCCER LOOK AHEAD

Ten Houston Dynamo matches worth checking out in 2018

Alberth Elis and the Dynamo will look to get back to the playoffs. Photo by Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The 2018 Major League Soccer regular season calendar was unveiled on Thursday, including all 17 of the Houston Dynamo’s league matches at home this season. Fans who attended a match in 2017 rarely saw the Dynamo lose as the team boasted 12 wins, 5 draws and only one loss - which came two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.

This season’s calendar is fairly evened out in that the team will not play home or away for more than a two-game stretch, allowing for an attractive home match at least once a month. If you are interested in making the trip downtown, you may also be interested in checking out SportsMap’s guide to a Dynamo Matchday and the BBVA Compass Stadium cheat sheet.

Here are 10 home matches worth checking out this season:

Saturday, March 3 vs. Atlanta United FC (2:30 p.m. kickoff)

The Dynamo will open the season at home - and on national television - when they host 2017 expansion club Atlanta United FC for the very first time. The sister club of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons were the talk of the league last season due to their potent on-field offense, their world-class tactician and their devoted fans that broke MLS attendance records. 

Former Argentina national team and FC Barcelona manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has composed a side worthy of praise and young stars like 23-year-old Miguel Almiron and 24-year-old Josef Martinez will make this a great first test to kick off the season. As if the Dynamo need any additional motivation, it’s worth noting Atlanta won the only meeting between the clubs last season in a 4-1 beatdown where Almiron scored a hat-trick.

Saturday, April 21 vs. Toronto FC (2 p.m. kickoff)

The MLS Cup Champions come to town with their roster of stars - composed of the highest salary total in the league - in 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco and U.S. Men’s national team players Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. Because of MLS’ unbalanced schedule, this Eastern Conference team will be visiting BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time since late in the 2016 season - a meeting that was postponed from its original date due to inclement weather. Many fans missed out on seeimg this talented side on that occasion but, coming off winning the league title, that shouldn't be the case this time around as it's expected to be a hot ticket.

Saturday, May 5 vs. LA Galaxy (7:30 p.m. kickoff)

This “Cinco de Mayo” match should have plenty of Mexican flavor as the Dynamo’s Erick “Cubo” Torres - the club’s top scorer in 2017 - faces off against fellow countrymen Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos. The dos Santos brothers are all but shoe-ins to represent Mexico at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and this match may be a great opportunity to see them of before they join their national team ahead of preparations for Rusia. It will also be the return to Houston of Dominic Kinnear - the manager who led the Dynamo to their 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup titles - who these days is an assistant for the LA Galaxy.

Friday, May 25 vs. NYCFC (8 p.m. kickoff)

Another former MLS MVP, 2010 FIFA World Cup Champion David Villa may be visiting BBVA Compass Stadium for the last time when New York City FC come to town. Villa scored a brace in his last trip to Houston in 2016, a match were fans were treated to witnessing another World Cup Champion in the now retired Andrea Pirlo. The club owned by both the New York Yankees and the Premier League’s Manchester City F.C. is led by managed by former Arsenal star Patrick Vieira and is sure to be a tough outing.

Tuesday, July 3 vs. LAFC (8 p.m. kickoff)

This season, a new face joins MLS in 2018 expansion side Los Angeles FC. The team owned by a big name investors like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Will Ferrell, Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm-Garciaparra has spared no expense in announcing their arrival with the signing of Mexico national team forward Carlos Vela and Uruguayan prospect Diego Rossi. Fans expecting to see Vela may not get an opportunity to see him on this date, however, as it occurs during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The team should still field a competitive side with MLS veterans like Benny Feilhaber, Laurent Ciman and Marco Ureña. The team is managed by Bob Bradley, who led the U.S. Men's national team to a second place finish in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Saturday, July 21 vs. FC Dallas (8 p.m. kickoff)

The first Texas Derby match of the season will be a much anticipated one as it takes place around the midway point of the season. Last season’s match against FC Dallas was the highest attended regular season game at BBVA Compass Stadium and there’s no reason to think this one won’t be a sellout. It will also be the first of three matches between the clubs in 2018, so expect both sides to want to get a lead on bragging rights. 

Saturday, August 4 vs. Sporting Kansas City (8 p.m. kickoff)

Speaking of rivalry games - although not officially dubbed as one - most devoted Dynamo fans will attest that matches against Sporting Kansas City are as much about personal pride as any. The two clubs developed this rivalry naturally during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 playoffs and, with the Dynamo’s return to the postseason, picked it back up in the 2017 playoff match that went to extra time. The Dynamo won that encounter 1-0 with a goal by Alberth Elis.

Thursday, August 23 vs. FC Dallas (8 p.m. kickoff)

Round two against FC Dallas will take place on a Thursday night as part of MLS’ rivalry week. The difference with this edition is that it will be less than a week removed from their third and final match of the season the next week in Frisco. It could be an opportunity for the Dynamo to seal the season series at home, making the result even sweeter.

Saturday, September 15 vs. Portland Timbers FC (7:30 p.m. kickoff)

The 2017 MLS MVP Diego Valeri will visit BBVA Compass Stadium as the push for the playoffs begins to hit the final stretch. Despite never winning in Houston, Portland nearly came close to doing that in 2017 at BBVA Compass Stadium in a back and forth contest that finished in a 2-2 draw. Mark this one as a match to visit late in the season.

Sunday, October 21 vs. Seattle Sounders FC (TBD p.m. kickoff)

The home finale during the regular season for the Dynamo will come against the team that eliminated them in last year’s playoff run. This edition will be between two teams expecting to make the playoffs and, as such, could have playoff seeding implications. Sounders FC will count on the likes of U.S. men’s national team forwards Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris and the ever electric Nicolas Lodeiro as they look to make it to a third-straight MLS Cup Final.

The full 2018 Houston Dynamo schedule can be found here.

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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