Being in Audi MLS Cup Playoff position midway through a season has never earned a team a trophy. But Houston Dynamo FC, sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference after 13 games, aren't above relishing the moment.
"It's nice to be above the playoff line," said head coach Ben Olsen after Saturday night's 2-1 home win over Austin FC. "It's nice to be up there. We want to keep pushing. We want to not just live in there, we want to keep going."
Goals from Héctor Herrera and Iván Franco gave the Dynamo a Copa Tejas comeback victory. Getting Herrera, their Designated Player and talisman, on the scoresheet is certainly a positive, but winning at home may be an even bigger deal. They've won five of seven regular season matches at Shell Energy Stadium for 2023, outscoring opponents 9-2 in that span. Including last Tuesday's 4-0 win over Minnesota United in the US Open Cup, they've scored six at home in their last two.
For a team with new ownership, a new coaching staff and big ambitions, winning at home is the first step towards reclaiming a foothold in a long under-tapped market. Olsen was optimistic the 16,055 fans in attendance, roughly 73% of Shell Energy Stadium's capacity, may have seen enough to get them hooked.
"We're protecting this place, we're winning games here, we're getting results here, which is one of the things we emphasized," said Olsen. "Hopefully how we're winning is entertaining in a way, and we've got some personalities out there. I think we're a fun team to watch. We'd love to see more fans in the stands. We'd love to get back some people that used to love this team 10 years ago or five years ago that lost interest.
"Win at home and get people back in there. We've got to earn that," he added. "Hopefully by winning at home and putting these type of performances on... hopefully that brings people back."
An added bonus to winning at home? Getting their second-ever win in six matches against Austin, moving them two points ahead of their rivals in the table.
"They're a good team," acknowledged Olsen. "We haven't seen their best punch. It'll be interesting to go there in a few weeks."
But with a smile, he concluded: "It is nice to go above them now, and that's what it's about."