It's an hour before game time on a late Saturday afternoon and members of the Texian Army and La Bateria congregate in a modest grassy area outside of Robertson Stadium. The Dynamo support groups have been camped out here since 1 p.m. in advance of seeing the home team take on the Columbus Crew.
"We're either very loyal or very bored," says an orange-and-sky-blue clad Texian Army dude in between pulls from a longneck beer. If this were a Major League Soccer playoff match, this Dynamo fan and his fellow diehards would have been here, in the oppressive heat, 24 hours before kickoff.
The two groups -- along with El Batallón and Brickwall Firm, who are tipping back a few on the other side of Robertson -- are in charge of making a mutha-effing raucous during Dynamo home matches. For the first time since 2007, the four contingents, comprised of young and middle-aged folks from all sorts of racial backgrounds, post up together at one end of the stadium and go wild for 90-plus minutes.
It wasn't always a cohesive effort, due to some beef between Texian Army and El Batallón that forced Dynamo officials to separate the groups. However, in advance of the new $110 million stadium (scheduled for a summer 2012 opening) that will feature a special support-group section in the lower bowl, front office personnel asked everyone to, once again, merge forces.
The move so far has been a success, according to Texian Army and La Bateria. The latter, who last year broke off from TA but still coexists with the team's longest standing group, admits that there used to be "some drama, but [then] we got rid of the roaches."
Chris Clemence is one of TA's most vocal and recognizable fans. Today, Clemence, who clinches a cigar in a mouth that's difficult to spot amidst black-and-white face paint, waxes poetic about the growth of MLS as a whole. He points to the fact that several clubs, including the Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City, can now boast their own stadiums instead of sharing real estate with their respective NFL franchises.
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Before moving to Houston, Clemence lived in Kansas City, where he backed the Kansas City Wizards, which was the team's name up until last year. Clemence says that in some ways, KC is weak sauce compared to the Bayou City soccer scene "because [Houston's] a bigger and more diverse city," says Clemence, who polishes off his beer and starts to break down the tailgate.
Moments later, Texian Army and La Bateria start marching towards Robertson. TA is in charge of the chants and flag-waving while La Bateria, under the sonic direction of a cat named Daniel, provides the music that usually includes a host of trumpets, trombones and drums.
Once inside, the groups go to town on their brass axes and vocal chords. To change up the relentless chants and percussion, the fans shout, whenever the opposing goalkeeper approaches and executes a free kick, "Oooooooh puto!" (In case you're unfamiliar with the meaning of puto, hit up Urban Dictionary.)
And though their team is shut out this evening by a 2-0 count, they'll willingly be back some six hours before the next home game to do it all over again.