US OPEN CUP
Ben Olsen, the man behind Houston Dynamo’s revival
The Texan outfit has undergone a rebirth and after being deemed as the worst team in MLS, the Dynamo are now considered as one of the top teams in the league.
The DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale hosts the 2023 US Open Cup final as home side Inter Miami face Houston Dynamo. A little over a year ago, no MLS fan could have predicted a final between two teams, considered at the time to be the poorest in the league. However, times change and Inter Miami have undergone a transition with Tata Martino now overseeing a team that features former Barcelona talents such as Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets with the arrival of Leo Messi in MLS being defined as a ‘game changer’ for the US league.
In a transition not dissimilar to that of Miami’s, Houston Dynamo have also evolved from being the poorest performing side Western Conference with the ‘Orange Crush’ falling to last position of their conference in September of last year.
The Dynamo had to make a complete reboot and reshuffle a squad with morale thin on the ground. The first decision was to remove, then head coach Paulo Nagamura with Ben Olsen drafted in as his replacement.
Olsen ignites the Dynamo
Olsen was formerly in charge of DC United, his only previous coaching post and managed to steer the side from the capital to an US Open Cup win in 2013. Slowly but surely the coach from Middletown (Pennsylvania) started to impose his style on the team as results started to fall Houston’s way and on the eve of the 2023 Open Cup final, his side sit comfortably in fourth place in the Western Conference and are a good outside bet for MLS Cup. According to Olsen: “We are far from a finished product and, in many ways, it was a kind of reset within the organization on the sporting side. There was a lot of movement within the board as well”.
The revival at Houston was aided as Ted Segal, majority shareholder of the club, went out of his way to bring established players requested by the new coach and the Texans focused on emerging talents such as Aliyu or Carrasquilla, but the jewel in the crown, would come in the shape of Mexican midfielder, Héctor Herrera.
The Mexican arrived as a free agent in 2022 after severing his deal with Atlético Madrid, but it wasn’t long before the central player proved that he still had so much to offer in a playing capacity as he was chosen as the MVP of the season.
Olsen also worked on the team’s defense and with the help of the loyal fanbase, the club transformed the Shell Energy Stadium into a fortress where defeat which was the norm approximately 18 months ago is now something of a rarity