MLS The Daily Kickoff

By Anonymous (not verified), November 9, 2022
MLS Soccer
MLS Soccer
Good morning, y'all. Your pal Sam here. Let's soccer.



MLS Kickoff Story
There's been a...let's call it a mixed reaction to Houston hiring Ben Olsen. Around this time last year we were talking about Houston potentially entering an ambitious new era under new ownership, a reshaped front office, a new manager and Hector Herrera on the way. A year later and things don't feel quite like we’re hurtling toward a reality where a sleeping giant has woken up in Houston and decided to whomp on the rest of the league.Objectively, Olsen isn’t the kind of hire that's going to move the needle. For a club that seemed willing to make the kinds of moves that turned heads and needed to make those moves to capture a city that doesn’t seem as connected to their team as even the other two MLS teams in the state, Olsen is just so…familiar. That doesn’t inherently mean bad. It just means that everyone already has their mind made up about him.Heck, I only dove headfirst into this league back in 2017, and I feel like I know what Olsen is about. The folks who have been following the league for far longer have 10 seasons worth of intel on Olsen as a manager. And from afar, his results in D.C. mirror the reaction to his hiring in Houston.There were moments where he helped guide D.C. United teams to performances above their station (five seasons with 50 points or more!) and moments where his teams straight up cratered (16 whole points in 2013!). And through it all, his teams generally played a style that can politely be called “defense oriented” that, fairly or not, came to be known as “Bennyball.” In a one-on-one interview with Olsen yesterday,’s Charles Boehm asked him about the label."Oh, it's coming," Olsen told Boehm. "It's a badge of honor, that word.""I can't worry about it too much. All I can do is focus here on what we're building and making sure that our game model here does look a little bit different than that."Look, make no mistake, I know defense is a bad word nowadays in soccer, and grittiness and punching above your weight is not very sexy, but I'm proud of my days at D.C. United and I don't care who looks at it in any way. I know I gave everything for that club and I think I, myself and my staff during those years, even though we had some lean years, I would still say overall, I'm proud of what I did there with, again, the resources that I had."Honestly, it's almost refreshing to hear a coach come in and avoid the banal “We’re going to play on the front-foot" platitudes that plague most introductory press conferences. But I think there's a philosophical question to ask here about whether ruthless practicality is what a club like Houston needs.We'll have to wait and see. And, as always, a team's success will largely be determined by the quality of the roster they build more than the manager. As long as a manager isn't: A) Getting in the way with over complicated or outright counterproductive tactics or B) Losing the locker room entirely or C) Some combination of both where both issues feed into each other, then the roster will steer itself. Whether that means steering head on into a tree or hitting every apex depends on the quality of the team.What I can say is that people and players around the league seem to genuinely like Olsen. It would be surprising to see him lose the locker room. And while his tactics in D.C. were reminiscent of the most brutally efficient government architecture the district has to offer, they never seemed to completely inhibit his teams. It will at least be interesting to see how his game model has changed since leaving D.C. United.In the end, a club that has gone through managers at a quicker rate than any other in MLS as of late went with a pick known for longevity. It may pay off in the long run. It feels familiar, but it's not boring.