Houston Dynamo see "fire" return as MLS Cup dream ends


Houston Dynamo FC’s dark horse MLS Cup run wasn’t meant to be, but the future is bright in H-Town after an odds-defying, trophy-winning 2023 season.

That was the message from first-year head coach Ben Olsen following Saturday night’s Western Conference Final loss at defending champions LAFC, who took a 2-0 decision and will visit the Columbus Crew on Dec. 9 for the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.

“The culture will be fine. There are good guys in there, a lot of them are gonna be coming back,” Olsen said of the club he helped guide to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017. “So I don’t worry about the culture component. It’s their culture, they’re a part of it.”

In just one season, Olsen – along with general manager Pat Onstad and technical director Asher Mendelsohn – brought in 17 new signings as he developed a winning culture based on pragmatic and aesthetic play that helped the team rack up results after a slow start.

It also pushed them to the 2023 US Open crown after a memorable win over Inter Miami CF in the final.

“If anything, that’s the takeaway of the year: We’ve won, but we’ve won in an enjoyable way. In a way that’s pleasing to the eye,” Olsen said. “I also learned that there’s real moxie in there. There’s winners, guys that are not afraid of the big moment.”

Chief among them is Héctor Herrera, the legendary Mexican international whose 4g/17a led a dangerous Dynamo midfield along with Coco Carrasquilla, Artur and Amine Bassi.

However, it wasn’t enough to prevent LAFC from imposing their game and moving on to their second-straight MLS Cup.

“When you play against the best you see it very clearly, some of your deficiencies,” Olsen stated. “You always want to add better players, more competition for spots, get bigger, faster, stronger, better."

For now, the former D.C. United boss is grateful for what he’s built in such a short time in Houston.

“To have this group to restart my career with, I’m just very, very thankful for [them]," Olsen said. “The energy, the enthusiasm, the quality and them being a part of energizing and putting a fire back in the Houston Dynamo.”