The Houston Dynamo announced a “new club direction” on Tuesday.
The team made the announcement via its website that the new name of the club is “Houston Dynamo FC.” “FC” stands for football club, and is used by several American soccer teams. The women’s team will still be known as the Houston Dash.
The rebranding includes new crests for both teams, which were created with help from a Houston-based, minority-owned company 9th Wonder.
“Both crests share a unique hexagonal shape, which will also carry over to the Dynamo Academy and youth affiliate clubs, as well as Houston Sports Park,” the team announced.
The Hexagon, which has six sides, represents Houston’s historic six wards.
“Hexagons reflect strength, stability and unity," the club’s statement reads. “They are their strongest when arranged together, each one making its neighbors stronger and more stable. The six-sided design also gives a nod to the Club’s inaugural year in 2006 and the six wards that made up the original layout of the city. The Club called the Third Ward home for its first six seasons prior to moving to BBVA Stadium, nestled between the Second and Third Ward in East Downtown (EaDo), in 2012.”
Adding the "FC" to the team's name is a hackneyed and cliché attempt at making the team sound more "Euro," and the new logo itself is a poor design. It is difficult to read from a distance. The orange interlocking letters are derivative of the San Francisco Giants. The symbolism behind the logo, e.g. "the six sides of the hexagon signify the original six wards of Houston" comes off as cheesy and contrived.*
But the biggest problem I have with the rebranding is this: the Dynamo claim that this represents a "new club direction," but the organization appears to be doing nothing to improve the product on the pitch, which has quite frankly been lousy as of late.
Comments on the team's social media pages regarding the new name and design are generally negative for this same reason: "Quit smoke and mirrors rebranding and built a real team, not a bargain basement collection of journeymen," "It's like rebranding spam as a gourmet meal," "Lipstick on a pig, unless our slumlord owners open their wallets and spend money on real talent," "Our front office is repainting our front porch all while our backyard is on fire. Super." You get the point.
The facts are these: the Dynamo have missed the MLS Cup Playoffs six out of the last seven seasons. They finished dead last in their division this just-completed season. They have one of the lowest player salary budgets in the MLS. Dynamo fans, having little to cheer about, are staying home: 2020's COVID-affected season aside, their attendance has been trending downward, from 20.6 thousand fans per game in 2015 to 15.7 thousand fans per game in 2019.
I'd be willing to accept this rebrand if it came with a commitment from the team's owners and front office to improve the actual product, by opening up the checkbook and signing better players. So far I've seen no indication that that's going to happen; as of right now this just feels like a cynical attempt to get the fans to buy new merchandise. I'd love to be proven wrong.
I'm not a rabid soccer fan, but I do go to a few Dynamo games every year (or at least I did, before COVID) and I generally have a good time, win or lose. But I also remember how good the Dynamo were their first few years in Houston, when they won back-to-back titles, placed first or second in their conference five out of six years, and Brian Ching came as close to a household name as a soccer player could in Houston. Those days are long gone, and rebranding alone is going to bring them back.
The "Club," if you must, needs to make a commitment to itself and its fans to start winning again.
*It's not even historically accurate. Houston originally only had four wards. Fifth Ward was added in 1866 and Sixth Ward was dded a decade after that. Wards were abolished as political subdivisions in 1915.