Coach speak can do a lot to paper over the cracks of a long season. Tough losses turn into “learning moments,” and bad mistakes into “growth opportunities.” But when it comes to wins, the reason for playing the game, there’s nothing better than the real thing.
Houston Dynamo FC head coach Ben Olsen knows that all too well from his previous decade-long stint in charge of D.C. United, and is accordingly relieved to see his new team get their first win of 2023.
“Coaches can say whatever they want, but you want to get your first win,” Olsen said after Saturday night's 2-0 home victory over Austin FC at Shell Energy Stadium, rebounding from two straight losses to start the season.
“It helps quite a bit. The mood in there is very good, and the message now is to grow and get better and make sure that we can put this type of performance on at home consistently, because I do believe it's a recipe for getting into the postseason.”
Establishing a winning culture at home is a point of emphasis for Olsen and the Dynamo, whose first two matches were played on the road against two teams currently near the top of the Eastern Conference: FC Cincinnati (2-1 loss) and New England Revolution (3-0 defeat). Beyond the head coach’s goal of “rewarding the fans,” Houston’s home victory over their in-state rival also established a brief Texas supremacy for the club, something they’ve lacked in recent years.
"This is a derby game right here. This is Texas state rivalry right here," said defender Daniel Steres. "We didn't do well last year and we wanted to come out and show that we deserve to be back at the top in Texas here and do it for the fans because we know what it means to them and we want to see them cheering like they were tonight and have something to cheer for."
After offseason signing Amine Bassi got the Dynamo off the mark with a penalty-kick goal in the 71st minute, it was their superstar Designated Player Héctor Herrera who put the game on ice in the 86th, skillfully working a one-two in the box with Griffin Dorsey before slotting home the game’s definitive goal.
"Héctor was our internal man of the match," said Olsen, who also highlighted "glue guy" Artur as a close second.
In addition to Herrera and Artur, Olsen praised Bassi’s performance in his first start of the season as well as strong defensive play from the back line as key factors in the win.
"It's great all around. Defensively, we don't tout those guys enough. I thought Teenage [Hadebe] was really good and Ethan [Bartlow] had his best game," said Olsen. "So I’m proud of those guys to keep a high-scoring team off the board.
"For Héctor to score a goal and to get on the board and also Bassi is a big deal. One out of the run of play, another a set-piece PK. So all in all, good night. We're going to enjoy it because it's our first one and it's nice to get that monkey off our back and then get back to work and hopefully get better."