MLS All-Star Game: Commissioner, Dynamo Honcho Talk Houston Soccer

Last night, Major League Soccer hosted a party for the who's who in Houston. The evening soiree at Hotel ZaZa had players past and present, corporate honchos, team owners and executives; basically anyone with deep pockets in American soccer.

So how did Hair Balls crash the joint? A long-sleeve shirt and a fashionable skinny tie will get you into these parties. Plus it helps that we checked in with the appropriate peeps.

Nonetheless, we caught up with some special VIPs and got their take on the state of soccer in Houston, the stadium, and these Red Devils from across the pond.

Chris Cannetti, Chief Operating Officer of Houston Dynamo
Hair Balls:
What is this All-Star match going to do for Houston?
CC: It's going to have a major impact on the growth of soccer. I already think that Houston is an amazing soccer city; there is an amazing soccer culture here.

When we decided to host this match and bring Manchester United in, our mission was to have a long-lasting impact on the growth of our team and our sport. I think Houstonians are going to see something real special here at Reliant Stadium. It will certainly help build the sport; it will certainly help build the Dynamo.

HB: Who is this Man U? Are they a local university?
CC: Most people in America quite don't understand it, but Manchester United is the largest and biggest sports brand in the world. We like to think of the Cowboys, the Yankees, the Lakers, the Celtics, brands of that nature as the biggest; but the reality is that there's nobody bigger than Manchester United.

HB: When are we to expect real pics of the Dynamo's new crib?
I think we are about to name an architect real soon; there are some preliminary concepts in place. Over the next few months, I think we'll be able to roll some of those preliminary concepts and give people an idea of what the stadium is going to look like and how it's going to feel. We are almost there.

Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer
So you gave us the All-Star Game, what other events are you going to throw our way?
DG: When that stadium gets built, this will be a terrific host city for other MLS events; whether that be our championship game or other international games. We play lots and lots of games here; whether it is against Mexican clubs or the Mexican national team.

HB: How great is our city?
DG: I think most people don't realize what a terrific soccer city this is. Everybody knows this is a great sports town, but this is a great soccer town. I went to our corporate partner dinner at Discovery Green, and there were thousands of people at the Fan Fest wearing Houston Dynamo jerseys and national team jerseys; that's not something that we've had in many other cities.

HB: How great was it that Houston got a soccer specific stadium in downtown?
DG: My hat goes off to Mayor [Annise] Parker and Judge [Ed] Emmett, they really came together to solve whatever issues existed and formed a private-public partnership. This is not a hand-out, this is a deep, financial commitment by the owners of the team, working closely with the city and county to create opportunity and develop the East End.

I toured it today; I saw those lofts, and I saw people walking their dogs and riding their bikes, and I was excited about how vibrant it will be when there is a soccer stadium there. I think it will really help raise the profile of the downtown area. [MLS] needs to be downtown, soccer is a downtown sport. What makes it work in England, in Mexico City, in Spain is that the stadiums are in the core of the urban population. We will have that here in Houston.

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