When I sat down to write about Dom, it took me a long time to actually start writing. So many memories began to flood through my mind that I just sat back and enjoyed the parade of images. From taking over the team in San Jose to creating one of the most successful franchises in the MLS, Dom has given us so many great memories in such a short period of time here in Houston. These successes were a direct result of the way that he led and molded his teams.
I could go into all that Dom has accomplished over the years, but I know that has been and will be covered throughout the next few weeks. Therefore, I will focus on what traits I feel made him successful and the ways these were transferred to his teams.
It all goes back to one of my first memories of Dom. The first time I walked into the locker room and said, “Good morning, Coach,” he got offended and told me to never call him Coach, as he would never call me “Player." He wanted me to address him simply as "Dom." This really let me know that it was going to be easy to talk to him. There were no formalities; he was just one of the guys. This helped create a tight-knit group of guys that fought for one another without any egos. He often looked into a player’s personality as much as he did their ability. You had to fit into what we were doing here or you were going to be quickly weeded out.
One trait that is obvious to us all is his passion. He is a competitor and hates to lose — even more than most of his players. Of course it’s obvious when you see him yelling on the sideline at a fourth official, but he brought this intensity to every training session. He demanded that every player have the same mentality and workrate. Another quote I still remember from him was “you perform how you practice.” So it came as no shock to me hearing players who got traded to our team say that training was the most intense that they have ever had. His intensity often carried over even after practice, where he rarely lost any of the games that he challenged players to: soccer horseshoes, soccer tennis, crossbar game, etc. As much as it pains me to say it, I was on the receiving end of many of those beatings.
As intense as he was on the field he was usually one of the happiest guys off of it. More often than not he had a smile when he walked in to the locker room and readily had a joke to share with the team. No one was safe from being made fun of, which often helped lighten the mood when we were taking ourselves too seriously. I think this made it easier to approach him about issues. This is one of the areas that set him apart from a lot of coaches, because he would give you his truthful opinion and not just tell you what you wanted to hear. You would hope that coaches would always be honest with you, but this isn’t always the case.
What I admired most about him was his loyalty. I feel like the team has always been his second family. He will always stand up for his players and never single someone out for making a mistake or having a bad game to the press. There were more than a few times that I was grateful for this. His loyalty to his players is also one of the reasons that I know made his decision to go back home one of the hardest that he has had to make.
I feel fortunate and privileged to have played for a man that I call a true friend. He has given us his all from the moment he stepped into Houston and will continue as long as he is a coach. We have all enjoyed the successes he has helped create. That is why we will always compare our future coaches to the standard that he has set. That is why we will wish him the best of luck in the future. Well, except when he plays the Dynamo of course.