The Houston Dynamo began the 2023 preseason on Sunday morning at Houston Sports Park under the watchful eye of first year head coach Ben Olsen and his coaching staff. It begins with more questions then answers with the biggest one being is this the staff to turn it around?
On their third new coaching staff in as many seasons, there is warranted reason to wonder if General Manager Pat Onstad has found the magic elixir Houston has been searching for since Dominic Kinnear was allowed to leave following the 2014 season. The Dynamo have managed just one winning season since and are on their fifth head coach not counting interims in that same span. Is this one to turn it around? Let's take a look.
Head Coach Ben Olsen
Ben Olsen had a great run at DC United. His 113 victories ranks ninth all-time. During his decade ong tenure, his teams made the postseason six times and although they never won the coveted MLS Cup, they did add the 2013 U.S. Open Cup to the trophy case. Olsen is only 45 years old and in addition to his coaching success was a decorated player as well so he knows both sides of the coin. He has been hired to develop a young team something he did five different times at DCU. His teams in spite of youth have managed to win or draw in 59% of their opportunities. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native is only two years removed from coaching so the game has not passed him by. Given the right players, he could be here for some time and Houston could return to soccer relevancy.
Assistant coach Aurelien Collin
Collin comes into his first coaching gig with the Houston Dynamo in 2022. The Frenchman had a decorated MLS career while anchoring the backline of 2013 MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City the first of his four stops before retirement. At 36, Collin brings a wealth of experience as a winner and may be the smartest signing of all by Houston this offseason. A three time All-Star, Collin appeared in the MLS playoffs eight times in his 11 year career including a 90 minute performance in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final with the Philadelphia Union.
Assistant coach Adin Osmanbasic
The past two seasons, Osmanbasic has been the head coach of the Dynamo Academy U-17 team, his only real coaching experience of note. Prior to arriving in Houston, he had stops in Atlanta and Columbus primarily as part of the video technnical staff. Every coach needs an opportunity to show what they can do at the highest level and with Houston in rebuild mode, this is his moment. It is expected that part of his role will be on tactical preparation. He has been a regular contributor to spielverlagerung.com, a website dedicated to tactical and match analysis among other things. Two of his most interesting authors may be most helpful to Houston and key to why Onstad moved him up. One is Tactical Theory - the various forms of rest defence and another which he co-authored is How Guardiola & 3-2-2-3 (ultimately) solved the defending meta. If either of these two articles were an impetus for his promotion, Onstad may be on to something.
Goalkeeping coach Tim Hanley
The name should be familiar to Houston fans who have been following this team since the Dynamo arrived in the Bayou City. Hanley was Pat Onstad's goalkeeping ciach when Houston won the 2006 MLS Cup. He is a throwback to the Dynamo Way that permeated Houston soccer and maybe this why Hanley has gotten a third stint with the Houston Dynamo. Olsen was eight years old when Hanley began his coaching career in 1985 none of the players he will be working with were even born. Hanley and Onstad were in Columbus together as well so its little wonder that the two have been reunited. This move may have more to do with rebuilding the Dynamo Way 2.0 and if so then let's hope it a stroke of genius.
This is a very interesting staff and won which could turn around the fortunes of Houston soccer. After all the only way is up.