The home result, powered by goals from midfielders Héctor Herrera, Coco Carrasquilla and Luis Caicedo, as well as Amine Bassi’s three assists, means they’ll travel to Inter Miami CF and Lionel Messi on Sept. 27 with a trophy on the line.
Silverware would only make things sweeter, but there’s undoubtedly validation for what Houston are building towards – especially mindful of roster turnover and the 17 players they’ve acquired for this season.
“When we set out for this year, we talked about creating a winning culture,” Olsen said in his post-match press conference. “That is one of the three things we continue to speak about. That included doing well in Leagues Cup and Open Cup. And, of course, the objective of getting into the postseason.
“This is just a really good step for this group and the organization in this moment. To put ourselves in a situation to play in the final after the year that we had last year, and the last few years, it shows that there's at least some growth here.”
Olsen took the reins in Houston for 2023, aiming to book their first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs ticket since 2017. They’re on track, sitting sixth in the Western Conference table with 10 games to go, and now are on the verge of their second US Open Cup title in six years (their 2018 squad lifted the national trophy over the Philadelphia Union).
As Houston keep climbing, Olsen turned reflective on his team’s journey.
“The Open Cup journey is a circus,” began Olsen, who has won two Open Cup titles with D.C. United, in 2008 as a player and in 2013 as a coach. “We should have lost in Tampa. Kansas City, they had a red card and we skirted by them. Then Minnesota comes in and they got a red card. The first two or three games, it’s a wild ride. Then you get into the quarters and you tighten it up and you go forward and obviously tonight, we put our best foot forward and got the result.
“Each one that I've ever gone through, as a player and as a coach, it's a wild ride. That's all I can say. You got referees, different types of referees, you're going to small cities, you get the home game versus the away game with a coin flip or however we're doing it. To get here, it takes a little luck. But once you get into quarters, these games get real. I'm proud of these guys for getting through the last two games.”
Against RSL, Olsen felt Houston produced “some of the best soccer we've played all year.” They might need to replicate that next month at DRV PNK Stadium, meeting a Messi-led Miami who already have claimed a trophy this season after winning Leagues Cup last weekend over Nashville SC.
Taking an early temperature of what awaits, Olsen is fully confident they’ll meet the challenge head-on.
“It does add a little something, Miami's resurgence and the hoopla around that team,” Olsen said. “Rightfully so, it's been an epic run for them. We would love to be the team that stops the train, but it will be a tough match.”
Added Olsen: “It didn't matter who we're playing. We're just excited to be in the final and we'll deal with [Miami] closer to the time that we'll play them. It's fascinating the way that they've transformed that team.”