Coping with Ike

Goalkeepers are the most helpless players on a soccer field.

Hurricane Ike put things in perspective for Pat Onstad

Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad was in California when Hurricane Ike made U.S. landfall, while his wife and children were back in Texas. ((Paul Chiasson/Caandian Press))

Goalkeepers are the most helpless players on a soccer field.

The game's shot-stoppers are alone between the posts, often left to fend for themselves and expected to immediately spring into action and come up with the big save when called upon, even after long stretches of inactivity.

When a forward or midfielder makes a mistake, he can recover and try to make amends. Goalkeepers have no such luxury — their errors lead directly to goals by the opposition.

But it is still just a game, not a matter of life and death.

So, imagine the sense of helplessness that overcame Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad on the morning of Sept. 13 — the Vancouver native was in California preparing for a game against the San Jose Earthquakes while his wife and family were back in Texas when Hurricane Ike made U.S. landfall.

Hurricane Ike slams into Texas

Onstad was just a short plane ride from home, but it might as well have been a million miles away. He was powerless to help his family. All he could do was hope for the best.

"It put things in perspective pretty quickly for me. I think for most of the guys on the team, too," Onstad told

"We played the night that the hurricane hit, so a lot of us were up half the night before watching it on TV and trying to get in touch with our wives to see if they were okay. Thankfully, everything was."

Onstad was one of the lucky ones. His wife was able to pack their three children in the car and head to Austin for a few days before Ike breezed through Houston. The Onstad household suffered only minor damage, requiring a roofer to replace some shingles.

Other families in Houston were not so lucky.

Ike slammed through Galveston and low-lying areas around Houston with winds of 177 kilometres per hour, flooding thousands of homes in coastal areas, completely washing out roads, and leaving millions of people in Texas and Louisiana without power.

"When we got back from San Jose, there were still a lot of people without power and electricity. Galveston was destroyed. It was a pretty devastating hurricane," said Onstad, a regular member of the Canadian national team.

In the aftermath of the destruction, soccer, understandably, took a backseat.

All sporting and cultural events in the city, including two Dynamo home games, were postponed for several days at the request of city officials.

City of Houston tries to recover

With no games to play, Houston players pitched in with the local relief efforts.

"A lot of guys on the team got involved and handed out food and water to people in need. There were a lot of people who needed assistance, so we tried to help out as best we could," Onstad said.

"As tough a tragedy as it was, it was amazing how everyone rallied around the city and helped out one another."

A portion of the ticket proceeds to the Dynamo's next three home games, including an Oct. 18 contest against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy, will be donated to relief efforts to help Houston residents recover from Hurricane Ike.

Even with everything the city has been through, the Dynamo are still in first place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference and look a sure bet to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the team tries to win an unprecedented third consecutive MLS Cup.

Onstad would love nothing more than to deliver another championship to a city that has been good to him and the Dynamo since the team relocated from San Jose in 2005.

In light of recent events in Houston, Onstad figures it's the least he and his teammates could do.

"We're really ingrained in the community, so what happens to Houston happens to us as well," he said.