Houston GM Pat Onstad takes responsibility for a lost season
By Louis Roesch
Houston Dynamo general manager Pat Onstad took full responsibility not just for the decision to move on from first year head coach Paulo Nagamura but for the club's performance as a whole.
"This isn't Paulo's (Nagamura) record. This is our club's record," said Onstad. "That's the issue and that's what we have to try to find a way to make it better."
The Dynamo last in the west again are searching for their third head coach in as many seasons. Since Dominic Kinnear left, Houston has had a difficult time finding the person to patrol the sidelines. First it was Owen Coyle, then a couple of interims, then came Wilmer Cabrera, Tab Ramos, Paulo Nagamura and now maybe Kenny Bundy.
"I still go back to our stance and Paulo (Nagamura) was trying to implement this, but we wanted to be a proactive team," continued Onstad. "We want to be a team that's on the front foot and dominating especially here in the heat in Houston. Unfortunately, our home record is what it is. It's not what you'd hoped for with a team that is going to be aggressive on the front foot. So that's one style we'd like to see implemented, but that's easier said than done. Then the other one though, as I mentioned earlier in this call was to make sure that somebody has experience coaching at the highest level. That's important for this group. We've got a lot of work to do to get forward and be successful. That's the type of coach that we need."
Losing is not something Onstad is used to so it's easy to see why this move was made. The Houston GM was in between the pipes for Houston's heyday back in the mid-2000's when the organization was bringing home two MLS Cup trophies.
"I've never experienced a year like this and I'm pretty sure the only time was in 1994 in my professional career that I've been a part of a club that had a record this bad'" described Onstad. "It's been difficult. I don't expect that next season. I expected this year for us to fight for the playoffs. Was it a lofty goal? Yes, absolutely. Do I think we'd be hosting a home game? Unfortunately, no, I didn't. I don't think we're there yet with a top-four team. Do I think we should be closer than we are to the playoffs? Yes. I think we should be. Whether that is in a playoff position or just shy of it but I think we should still be having some games that matter at this point of the season. Unfortunately, we don't."
The Dynamo are giving Bundy a five game trial period to prove that he can do the job. Whether or not, he is given the job on a permanent basis will depend on what change the organization sees in the performance on the field.
"There are analytics and whatnot, expected goals, possession, possession in the attacking third, chances created," said Bundy. "Those are things we all look at when we're evaluating game performance. That's what the fans see for 90 minutes. Obviously, the results are first and foremost.
Onstad also pointed out Houston's most glaring deficiency which is a strength of Bundy's.
"One interesting piece and I hate going back to it, but when you watch teams that successful in this league leads and hold on to leads and protect them for the rest of the game," reiterated Onstad. "It might not be the prettiest soccer, to be able to hold on to leads, but they find out ways to close out games. Every year there's always teams that are known for not being able to do that. Unfortunately for us, we're going to talk about that being ingrained, right now we're going through that stretch where we're getting leads in Seattle, against a team that is desperate and the next thing you know, we're losing. The same in Minnesota, we're in Dallas, and Vancouver so you can kind of just keep going down the list, but it's not just us. There are other teams in our league that are having the same problems but for us, it seems to be history this seems to be a nine-year history of not being able to hold on to leads. Sometimes that's players, sometimes that's coaching, sometimes that's management. Sometimes that's even believe it or not it's staffing. It's the belief system within your group and I think that when I talk about kind of systemic issues within our club, that's one factor."
Bundy is a coach who clicks all those boxes so a lost season may now have a silver lining.