I don't particularly like the Houston Dynamo. Outside of them beating Sporting KC in last year's Eastern Conference finals, I even don't really like them. Their fans as well aren't my favorite MLS fans in the league. A couple of KC fans who went down there for the Western Conference finals a few years ago were told to stay away from their supporters because they didn't really get along with opposing supporters. That being told to a group that has prided itself on being welcoming to away supporters when they come to KC was certainly enough to raise some ire with some people. That said I'm keeping an eye on the situation in Houston now due to the actions of their supporters groups. Because it sets a precedent that could come into effect for Sporting KC supporters and the Cauldron on away trips.
For those that missed it, Dynamo supporters have been banned from bringing banners, drums, flags, etc. to a away games until their stadium's opening on May 12th. These things are normal allowances for away supporters to bring to games as a way to support their team on the road. But due to the actions of some of their fans in 3 specific games last year, a regular season game at Dallas, the Eastern Conference finals against KC, and the MLS Cup finals at the Home Depot Center. After their home opener, the situation will be reassessed. No matter what though, even after the reassessment, Houston fans will not be allowed to bring those items into LSP on July 7th when the Dynamo travel to KC.
The 3 incidents saw the Dynamo fans travel in great numbers to see their team play. Also during the game were reports, and sightings, of smoke bombs, abusive language, and throwing objects onto the field, along with other things.
The Dynamo supporters groups were informed of this via an email from the league. This is a new response from the league, which in the past has seemed to let a lot more slide. But I think the final straw may have been the throwing of batteries, flashlights, and other hard objects in the direction of LA Galaxy players, specifically Landon Donovan and David Beckham after the cup final last year.
Dynamo supporters have said that the club has already passed down punishments to the below that they believe threw things onto the field based on video evidence, including half and full season bans this year. But the league felt they needed to step in and impose their own sanctions on the team. Honestly I can't really fault the league for doing it, throwing things like batteries and flashlights is stupid and immature, if one of the Galaxy players had actually gotten hurt it could have been very bad, similar to the Jimmy Nielsen bobble head incident.
But the thing to pay attention to is the potential implications for the future, not just for the Dynamo, but for all supporters groups. Houston isn't the only supporters group that has done the things that are being pointed out by the league. Let's take a look at some specific points while taking a look at Kansas City this past year.
1. Multiple illegal smoke bombs were brought into the stadium, ignited and thrown onto the field (MLS Cup, Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (November 20, 2011), Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (November 6th, 2011), and Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park (September 24, 2011))
While I haven't seen an incident of a smoke bomb being thrown on the field, they have been set off inside the Cauldron. Most of the ones that I've seen in the section have been illegal ones, usually with the consequence of the person that lite them getting thrown out. In the Chivas Guadalajara game last year I was standing next to someone else who was confronted by security and told they'd lit one when they had not.
I've seen legal ones that have been given to Cauldron capos by security as well. In 2010 when the team was still at CAB, the Cauldron got assistance in requiring a proper fire permit to set off smoke bombs in the section by certain people. I myself set off of a few of them and placed them in coffee cans filled with sand while they burnt out. So the smoke bombs are something that the Cauldron has started to see with some regularity.
It is also a little hypocritical of the league to come down on a supporters group for smoke bombs when quite a few teams and advertisements have had video of smoke bombs being set off in them.
2. Various objects that presented a safety risk thrown onto the field in the direction of players and stadium personnel (MLS Cup, Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (November 20, 2011)).
There were two big moments this past year that saw items thrown onto the field that struck or almost struck a player. One was an isolated one off incident, the other was done in mass. Firstly the one most people think of when they think of stuff thrown onto the field, the Omar Bravo bobblehead incident. For those living under a rock, that was during the Portland this year. After KC took the lead through Graham Zusi's first goal, Jimmy Nielsen got hit right under the eye by the head of an Omar Bravo bobblehead that was handed out before the game.
The other incident, the one that I think more matches the situation referenced in the letter to the Dynamo supporters, was opening day. After Omar Bravo got upended in the box by Bratislav Ristic and no penalty was given. While Bravo laid on the ground well over 100 bottles and other things got thrown onto the field. That situation almost matches exactly what happened with the Dynamo supporters in MLS Cup.
3. Obscene language and gestures by multiple supporters (MLS Cup, Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (November 20, 2011)).
All supporters groups have obscene language, either in an organized form or by individuals shouting stuff out. The fact that this is an item is probably the one that many fans should be concerned about. If MLS is going to be sticklers to this point things could get interesting with sanctions. Of course from the game here that the Dynamo supporters are being sanctioned for, this happened:
Again, I'm not forgiving the actions of the Dynamo supporters, in fact I think they're down right pathetic, but it'll be interesting to see how these sanctions play out now as the season goes on. The league has set a precedent now with these sanctions and if they don't follow them as the season goes on, then they'll be called hypocritical for not giving the same sanctions for another group.
Definitely something to keep an eye on, because as I pointed out above, each of the things that Dynamo fans are being "charged" for, are things that have happened in the Cauldron. If similar things happen in the Cauldron this year, what's to say that the Cauldron doesn't get similar sanctions?
This is also something to keep an eye on, because from comments from some of the leadership of the Dynamo groups, the league is apparently looking at Sporting KC because of racist chants being directed at the Dynamo fans when they were in Kansas City for the Eastern Conference finals.