Over the course of the year I watch, read and consume a lot of soccer related information. This post will attempt to highlight some of my favorite Texas soccer related media of all varieties from 2018. I obviously can’t read or watch everything and make no assertions that the media I highlight in this article are the “Best” of anything….because they are only my opinions and reflect my own taste. There will also invariably be a southern part of Texas slant because that it where I typically watch live soccer. Nevertheless, here goes and if I missed anything that readers believe should be recognized, please let me know in the comments section.
This image was posted on the Houston Dynamo website during a weather delay at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on July 3rd. When queried, the Dynamo credited Shanna Lockwood from USA Today Sports Images with this stunning image. The Dynamo were playing LAFC and I wish I had been able to see this sky, but all of us were sent out of the seating bowl during this lengthy delay. The match ended 2-2 when the Dynamo scored twice in AET to level. Curiously, the Dynamo also had a lengthy weather delay during the return fixture in Los Angeles later in the year.
For the last few years the Houston Dynamo have produced a series of videos during the preseason titled The Slice, with an HBO NFL Hard Knocks feel. They also occasionally produce videos in this series for other events during the season, such as a preview for the US Open Cup Final. The work is excellent and the videos entertaining. Below is a link to Episode 1 of the 2018 preseason.
3rd Degree (https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/soccer) is an independent site that works in partnership with the Dallas Morning News to provide coverage of FC Dallas and other North Texas soccer news. The site has been around since 1997 and Buzz Carrick leads a team that provides extraordinary coverage of the entire FC Dallas organization from the first team down through the Academy. Among other stories during 2018, Buzz traveled to Arizona to cover the FC Dallas preseason trip to the desert, wrote numerous detailed and informative practice reports, covered historical events like the opening of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco and provided detailed Academy scouting reports. There is no independent soccer website in Texas (or few in the country for that matter) that comes close to this level of quality exhaustive coverage of an MLS team. 3rd degree added a podcast late in the year to their offering https://3rddegree.podiant.co/
It seems like others feel the same way about their work too.
TV/Radio broadcaster Glenn Davis has been producing Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis (https://www.podcastarena.com/soccermatters/) in Houston for more than 15 years. The show is as fresh and impactful today as it has been since the beginning when Houston did not have a professional soccer team. His occasional interviews with Houston Dynamo GM Matt Jordan are among the rare times we get a glimpse into what the Dynamo technical staff are thinking. Two examples of other recent interviews I found the most interesting: First, his talks with former MLS player and current Texans Soccer Club youth coach Eric Quill which covered youth development in general, but specifically discussed FC Dallas Academy and Texans SC product Chris Richards who just returned from a loan to Bayern Munich in Germany. Second, his interview with former MLS goalkeeper Johnny Walker about his time in Chile and participation in Copa Libertadores. I also want to highlight the work of Houston journalist Victor Araiza on this radio show.
Other Radio shows: The Throw In (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-throw-in/id1352817652?mt=2) delivered excellent updates and interviews on MLS in Austin and other local soccer stories on The Horn ATX/104.9 FM during their Sunday morning shows. Host Kit McConnico, Justin Simmons and Zach Christodoulides also provided a great forum for input from Austin soccer journalists like Phil West and Arch Bell.
I have a lot of respect for those who produce Texas soccer podcasts. I am not going to pick a favorite, because they are all my favorites. The time, energy and money the pod-casters invest to help spread the word is worthy of recognition for each of the more than 15 statewide soccer podcasts. That aside, I would like to highlight a few sites for specific reasons.
First, my favorite podcast episode of the year was the end of season FC Dallas wrap up (in 2 parts-with contributions from Dallas journalists Mark Followill, Steve Davis and Jon Arnold) from The 19th Minute (https://the19thminute.podomatic.com/). Second, I would like to recognize SA Soccer Round Table (https://soundcloud.com/user-131123956-561373909/sa-soccer-round-table-121918) for their deep dive into all levels of soccer in San Antonio. Third, I would also like to highlight the new podcast from Dustin Nation called FC Nation (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fc-nation-podcast/id1416064771?mt=2). Dustin conducts excellent “story” interviews about under the radar topics like soccer journalism and the lower leagues. Finally, kudos to Down in the Valley Podcast (https://twitter.com/DownInTheRGV) for their excellent work on RGV FC, which doesn’t receive enough coverage in general, and the recent announcement that Down in the Valley would begin Spanish language podcasts in 2019 to supplement their current English language offering.
Austin’s Phil West wrote I Believe That We Will Win-The Path to a U.S. Men’s World Cup Victory which was released shortly before the 2018 World Cup in Russia began. Unfortunately the United States was not there, but this excellent summary of issues surrounding the United States National Team covers a lot of ground on a complex and controversial topic. This is West’s second soccer book, following on the heels of his exploration of MLS in his United States of Soccer title a few years ago.
There were a handful of under the radar stories from all over the state that are worth remembering before leaving the year behind.
Vincenzo Cox, Head Coach of Elsik High School’s Boys varsity soccer team in Southwest Houston, was heralded in an article as the first African-American high school soccer coach in Texas to win a State Championship. John Harris in The Undefeated wrote a fascinating story about a team that ended the season as the Number 1 ranked team in the Winter USA Today Super 25 Boys soccer rankings.
Dreams can come true when soccer teams provide opportunities for players in communities where previously those opportunites do not exist. When the United Women’s Soccer League formed a new Texas conference last year, a team in El Paso (ASA El Paso) became part of the league. Nicole Carrillo, was a local mother who hadn’t played since High School and College and she had a chance to follow her dreams. KFOX 14 in El Paso told her story.
A group of refugees from Africa have been brought together as part of a successful youth soccer team in Houston under the sponsorship of a Houston non-profit called reVision. USA Today’s Monica Rohr wrote about their journey, both to America and on the soccer field, earlier this month.
The Nutmeg News is a soccer website that bills itself as satire, humor and comedy…not actual news. They are a must follow site on Twitter and their “report” on the Chicago Fire’s possible relocation to San Antonio was my favorite Texas themed Nutmeg News story of the year.
The best quote from this:
Fans in San Antonio reportedly rebelled against the idea of moving an Andrew Hauptman team to their area, but Major League Soccer was nonplussed stating, “You’ll get it and you’ll like it and your city will pay for it and you’ll shut up or get nothing. We will get a sold out stadium in Texas eventually.”
Ahmet Guvener is a former executive in the Turkish FA who now lives in Austin. He wrote an article about Pay-to-Play, the universally derided way that most youth soccer is conducted in this country. Unfortunately, there are very few answers on how to find the resources to replace it. In this article he points to a handful of Texas clubs that have found ways to provide free to play opportunities in their communities.
Columnist Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle wrote in April about the varsity girls team at Ft. Bend Marshall High School.The team had not won a game this year and nobody could remember when they had ever won. The team is mostly comprised of kids who hadn’t ever been on a soccer team prior to enrolling in high school. I am old enough to remember the days when this was actually the norm, though anybody adopting this strategy today will be at a serious disadvantage against virtually all other schools who have rosters comprised of kids who have been playing since they were in elementary school. Nevertheless, the girls persevere and the story is uplifting.
Finally, there were a lot of good published quotes about soccer in Texas during 2018, but one of my favorites came from Matt Doyle of MLS Soccer.com when in late July he and Bobby Warshaw revisited their “One Big Question for Each MLS Team” column that they published before the season began. Matt’s original question about the Houston Dynamo was what Plan B the Dynamo could develop for the attack to not be so reliant on a counterattacking style. In July he believed the Dynamo largely answered that question but then posed an alternative Plan B question that unfortunately pointed to an unfortunate truth that derailed the Dynamo’s 2018 MLS regular season:
“Plan B for losing Juan David Cabezas, last year’s team MVP, for all but 36 minutes of the season was “curl into a ball and die slowly.”