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‘We had accepted mediocrity’: Inside Houston Dynamo’s journey from bottom-feeders to MLS contenders

The new-look Houston Dynamo are making waves in MLS after some big changes.

7 min read

Houston Dynamo head coach Ben Olsen is locked into his team’s current mission: seeing if the revamped 2023 squad can win its second tournament of the year after claiming the U.S. Open Cup in surprising fashion.

He’s so locked in that he doesn’t want to take a step back to admire how dramatic the turnaround has been. He’s so locked in that, as he revealed in a Friday morning session with media, the club’s annual Halloween celebration slipped his mind.

“Well I woke up this morning and I forgot about it,” Olsen admitted. “I asked my sons what they had for me,” wearing what they were able to cobble together from their collections. 

And as for reflecting on the season they’ve had, one that took the Dynamo from their 13th place Western Conference finish last year up to fourth this year? He noted, “It's been hard to step back through this process, because there's always been something ahead of us to keep us charging forward. I hope in the offseason there will be a moment to say, ‘Okay, that was a good year, we accomplished a lot, maybe ahead of where we thought we would be at this point.” 

“To be honest,” Olsen added, “It's hard in this business to pat yourself on the back or think about the good — it's just not the way we're wired.” 

That keep-moving-forward attitude has been key for a Dynamo team that’s struggled so much in recent seasons. In fact, just getting to the playoffs has been a remarkable change in fortunes. With Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Real Salt Lake in the first round of the 2023 MLS playoffs, the Dynamo are just one win away from the conference semifinals — a place they haven’t been since the 2017 season, which is the only other time Houston qualified for postseason play in the last decade.

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