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Ben Olsen introductory press conference: Quotes from Olsen, Onstad, and Segal

Read what new head coach Ben Olsen, general manager Pat Onstad, and majority owner Ted Segal had to say to the media on Tuesday.

Houston Dynamo FC

The Houston Dynamo officially announced the hiring of Ben Olsen as the team’s new head coach. Olsen met with the media Tuesday, alongside general manager Pat Onstad and majority owner Ted Segal. If you missed any of the press conference, read below to see quotes from the three men. If you would like audio of the press conference, check out our podcast feed, anywhere you get your podcasts.

Houston Dynamo majority owner Ted Segal

(opening statement) “Welcome, everybody. Thank you for coming out today. I hope that all of you have voted or plan to at the conclusion of this conference. I have a round of congratulations that I want to start with, congratulations to the Houston Astros for the World Series title. To our friends at LAFC for winning the MLS Cup and to the Houston Dash, which I haven’t been able to publicly recognize for their first ever playoff appearance. Jessica O’Neill, for her promotion to Chief Operating Officer of Houston Dynamo Football Club, and to Kenny Bundy for re-signing with organization. Lastly, to Pat Onstad and Asher Mendelsohn for leading the process that brings us here today. The biggest congratulations going to Ben Olsen as the new head coach of Houston Dynamo Football Club. Ben’s accomplishments as a coach and player are too many to list but include as a player, multiple MLS Cups and Supporter Shields, tenure as a Best XI member in the league and longtime service on the U.S. Men’s National Team. As a coach, Ben ranks among the top 10 winningest coaches in MLS history. He led D.C. United to six playoff appearances, led the club to a 2013 US Open Cup title, and was named 2014 MLS Coach of the Year. He stood out among the candidates for his league experience and his track record of getting the best out of his teams and his commitment to our project here in Houston. His teams were consistent playoff contenders, and it’s a testament to Ben’s ability to develop and motivate players. Indeed, his competitive nature is legendary in MLS, and stood out to me in this process. This competitiveness is in line with our objectives for this organization. I’ve learned over the past year and a half that it’s not easy to overcome a culture of complacency when it’s taken root in an organization. It takes new players who commit to our mission, takes leadership and our business operations starting with Jessica, it takes front office leadership like Pat and Asher. It takes a driven head coach like Ben, who, by the way, is very committed to this project, and knows what our fans in Houston expect and deserve. It takes all of us working together toward a goal of excellence. It’s a new era here in Houston. Welcome Ben Olsen. As I’ve concluded many of these, let’s ‘Hold it Down’ and get to work.”

(on having 10 rosters spots available for the 2023 season) “To answer your questions, 10 open roster spots certainly creates an opportunity. As Ben (Olsen) alluded to there, and as I’ve said many times, my job is to provide the resources to these guys and not make the decisions that they’re ultimately responsible for making, but certainly it’s an opportunity with that many roster spots open.”

(on hearing Ben Olsen talk about what he wants to see from his team) “It’s something that we talked about in the interview process. So, it’s not surprising to me. We’re all on the same page. Like I said in my introductory remarks, we need a little bit of a cultural change across our organization, a little less complacency, and a little bit more nasty and aggressiveness.”

(on what he learned from the first time he hired a coach) “We imparted the lessons learned from the last process and we had the luxury of time here. So, we can be a little bit more methodical and thoughtful about every step of the process. We’re very satisfied with the end result.”

Houston Dynamo FC

Houston Dynamo general manager Pat Onstad

(opening statement) “Thank you for coming today. Fantastic turnout. So, thank you very much. I’ll echo Ted’s (Segal) words, please vote today. Make sure you go out and vote. That’s important. Probably the most important thing that we’ll do today. So, make sure you go out and vote. Number two, congratulations to the (Houston) Astros. It’s nice to see a championship being raised. I know a lot of you were there and got to see the celebrations. It’s something I know that we’re striving for here at the club. Which brings me to the gentleman on my left. Ben (Olsen) and I have a history together. I’ve worked for him for a couple of years in D.C. We have a history that dates back when we were competitors. And as Ted (Segal) mentioned, Ben was one of the fiercest competitors I ever played against. I was fortunate to get to know him a little bit after games. I mentioned this to him, he doesn’t remember it. But for me it stands out after a game at Robertson Stadium and we kind of talked about the state of D.C. United and Houston, the weather here and he was complaining of course about how horrible it was. But there was an incident that took place at the time where one of our fans made a comment towards one of their players. It was racially toned, and it wasn’t good. So, Ben and I had spoken about it. I remember calling him almost just out of the blue and saying ‘hey, listen, I just want to represent our club as players and as a staff, that as a group this is not what we represent.’ One thing I would say is Ben took that to his group. Right away, I could tell that there was a good character there. For me, that’s kind of where our friendship started. Not necessarily on the right terms. But in the end, a gentleman here that is straightforward, and is this competitive as Ben is. So, a few things I think that we looked at as we did the search, a second search for a head coach, what we learned from last time was that we were up against time, and time was important. So, when we made the decision to let Paulo (Nagamura) go, and Kenny Bundy took over, who did a great job for us was, to give us some time to make sure that we talked to a lot of people. And we did that, both between Asher (Mendelsohn) and I, we spoke to a lot of people in the search. Ben kept coming, we kept coming back to Ben, somebody who believed in our project and believes in what we’re trying to build here. A guy that I know, who I’ve worked with, and I can trust, a person that wants to work in a collaborative way to make sure that we become a better club. So, we’re excited to have Ben Olsen as our new head coach here in Houston. I want to thank you for taking this opportunity and taking this challenge on. Thank you.”

(on the expectations for the 2023 season) “You’re correct. We were in the exact same spot. What was it six points, or something like that as far as improvement. That’s not enough to make any dent. So, I wouldn’t pretend to say that ‘hey, we made giant strides.’ One thing I would say is when we inherited the roster, a few things I’ve learned as we’ve gone through the season, there wasn’t a lot of flexibility. When we looked at the group, it wasn’t exactly where I thought it was. I probably underestimated the area that we need the most improvement. In terms of metrics and how we’re going to do that. One of the reasons we hired Ben (Olsen) is we realized we talked about this, and I talked about this before last year. I talked about a proactive style of soccer. I don’t know how many times I bang that drum, and I don’t think that’s what we saw. So, when we talk about progress. For us, that was the piece I think that ultimately why we made the decision. We didn’t feel like we had a game model to be proud of or something that fans could latch on to and say, ‘hey, this is how we play in Houston. That was one of the exciting things when we were going out and interviewing candidates – just talk through the game model that we see, that we believe in. When I say we, it’s Asher Mendelssohn, the technical director, and myself, and Ben (Olsen) was one of these candidates, and there were others who embraced this and said, ‘yeah, I want to build this with you guys’. So, you’ll see there’ll be some hires in the next four to six weeks, there’ll be some hires that will help explain that in terms of director of methodology, an analytics component that will help measure what we’re trying to do, but we need progress. Progress ultimately, as much as it is nice to find out, did we, you know, do we regain the ball in the attacking third X amount of times, the bigger progresses is are we getting enough points to get in the playoffs? I still believe this group can make the playoffs. I’ll never stop saying that every season.”

(on what stood out about Ben Olsen during the hiring process) “A couple of things, part of it is his background. I know we keep harping on this, but he’s 45 years old. He’s a young coach in our league. One of the things he’s got, he’s made the playoffs six times, there’s not many coaches that have done that at his age. That part was exciting that we had a young coach. The other part when you talk about what stood out, was the fact that he was excited about the project and excited about the game model that we want to try to implement. This proactive style, keep harping on this, but for us to discover how we’re going to do this, how we’re going to coach this, how we’re going to be this team that’s on the field that that plays on the front foot, that people can be proud of, that people could say that’s the Houston Dynamo way. That for me was the turning point for us, when we had these conversations, and there were a lot of people in our club, that were a part of these conversations, where we sat in a room and we talked through these things. So, it wasn’t just myself sitting in a room and having dinner with Ben (Olsen). There were six, seven people in a room having these conversations and it was a different way to interview people, but I think we got a much better feel for the candidates that we spoke with.”

(on what was missing in 2022) “What we’re missing here too, at times was frustrating, is we were missing some nastiness. We were missing some competitiveness. It’s something that (Ben Olsen) talked about. When you talk about the past, you think of Eddie Robinson or Brian Ching throwing a little bit of an elbow, a Ricardo Clark tackle, you know, Geoff Cameron going through somebody, we missed that at this club. When I say Dynamo way, we need to be competitive. Ben Olsen, that’s who he is. I talked about it at the beginning when I first met him. I mean, this is who he was as a player, and it’s who he is as a coach. That’s a piece that we definitely didn’t have last year. I know we’re going to have that this year.”

Houston Dynamo head coach Ben Olsen

(opening statement) “Good afternoon, everyone. Congrats to the Houston Astros. I thought the parade was initially for me, but I realized quickly that was not the case. Very cool, it is inspiring to see championships in the city. Quick hi to my wife and kids back in DC, they’re looking forward to coming down south and getting to know this diverse and proud city. I will start by thanking the ownership group, Ted Segal, Lyle Ayes for this trust in me with this project. It’s what I believe in strongly, the vision for the club is a huge part of why I’m here today. With Pat Onstad’s guidance, the resources and the building blocks that have been already laid. I’m confident in this new era of the Houston Dynamo and to the supporters. This is one of the great MLS clubs. You’ve seen the highs and lows, and I respect your past, as I battled against your legends like Brian Ching, Bobby Boswell and Pat Onstad. What you can count on is that I will give you everything I have to put a team out there that you’re proud of and resonates with the great culture that exists here in Houston. We have a lot of work to do. The immediate focus will be improving the roster with a strong core with promising prospects. We need to add more quality and depth. Secondly, we as a staff need to make sure the players are clear on the roles to execute a proactive and effective game model. Lastly, we need to continue to improve the club’s mentality and culture that has been on the wrong side of the playoff line too many times in the past decade. I’m not here to sell you on me, the results. The way the team plays in the coming seasons will ultimately be the test, but now I’m excited by this challenge and ready to get to work. Thank you.”

(on the improvement needed for 2023) “It’s a tough question. I don’t want to get too much into the roster. I know I’m kind of skirting that a little bit. I’ve been here one day. I’ve been in office with Asher (Mendelsohn) and Pat (Onstad), a little bit, but I haven’t even sat down with the individual players, yet I’d like to do that first, before I start commenting on players in a specific way, I think that’s fair to them. I will say that the core is strong, but it has to be enhanced. We have to push this roster. As you look around the league, in particular, the west. There are some serious teams that have some talented rosters not only 1-11, but the league is such that now they’re bringing people off the bench that are high caliber, and with great resumes. That’s where it starts. I got a lot of trust in Pat and Asher, that they’re very good at identifying those players, and certainly in ownership that the resources are going to be there if we find the right players to enhance our group to support that.”

(on what attracted him to the role) “Relationships with people that I trust, and coming here in particular, with Pat (Onstad). A fresh ownership that I also grew to enjoy being around and trust, the resources that they are putting into the club, not just players, right? It’s more than just players. It’s support around myself and my staff. It’s infrastructure. So, it’s the commitment to the fan base to dig out of where we’re at as a club. It takes enhancing so many areas of the club. So, those were very, very important to me. The ability to hire a complete staff. I have some faults, I am not imperfect, and I need a lot of people, I need a lot of help around me. I know what those profiles of people look like. They’ve assured me that I can go get those people to make myself whole and make this staff as good as possible.”

(on why he believes he can be successful in Houston) “I would argue that that the DPs (Designated Players) that are here are at a very high level. Hector (Herrera), we haven’t seen the best of him, right. It’s a interesting year for him coming in. You have the World Cup on the horizon, some injuries, transition to a new league. I think we’re going to see a whole another Hector Herrera next year for this club. He’s going to be a huge piece. He’s one guy I will speak about, because I know he’s going to be here and he’s going to be a huge part. (Coco) Carrasquilla is a player I’m very excited to work with and (Sebas) Ferreira. He scores goals, Wayne Rooney scored goals and Ferreira can score goals, it’s the same thing. We need to keep adding his numbers up to 15-20, 20 goals a year. We have about 10 spots to fill. So that’s our responsibility now, to make sure those spots are filled in the right way, in a responsible way. Pushing this club forward and that’s ultimately how we’re going to be successful.”

(on if the current roster can compete for the postseason) “Right now. I think it’s close. It’s a hard question to answer because we’re going to add four, five, six, seven players over the next month to make this team into what I believe is a playoff team, I’m confident again, in the players that we have, that we’re looking at every day, and that we have the ability and resources and the cap room to add to this group to be a playoff team. That’s a tough question because there’s six, seven (players) leaving right now. We’ve got a lot a lot of holes to fill.”

(on his coaching style) “It’s always dependent on the team and the group. In the past if you wanted to stereotype me, as a coach, my teams are gritty, they punched above their weight. They were tough to play against. I’m sure the blogs would be saying it’s very defensive, and not as pleasing to watch, but effective. The challenge here now is, with these players, changing that game model that we had in D.C. United, to a more proactive style that Pat’s (Onstad) been talking about a little bit more front foot, a little bit more exciting, higher shots on goal. Just a little bit more of a fast-paced, proactive style. That’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to. I feel with the support I have now, in the back rooms, with my staff and the ability to bring in the right people, I think we’ll be able to implement that in in a very, very sound way and make sure the players are very clear on how their roles fit within that structure. We talked about the things that have to get better here and its players, okay, obviously, right. But it’s, it’s making sure they’re sound in the game model and clear on their roles. Then it’s mentality. I like to think that that third part is something that I can instill in these players, where we are very, very tough to play against. I don’t want to say nasty, but nasty. Too many times. Again, I don’t want to talk too much about the past here. But in the recent past, there’s a little bit of a lack of soul, and fight in this group. It was there when this club first started. Again, I don’t want to go into the past. But you knew when you were coming here, you were getting your ass kicked, it was going to be hot, and you’re going to get beat up. You knew the Dynamo way, and it was effective. Now, can we bring some of that back now into more of a modern game model that is unique to us. I think that’s the challenge here and one I’m looking forward to trying to implement.”

(on being away from coaching for two years) “The ball is still round, isn’t it after these two years? It’s important for people to understand where I was. I spent 10 years coaching nonstop. This is a tough job. After 10 years, I felt like I needed to step away and take a different look at life, frankly. I tried some different things I worked in the women’s league as a president for the Washington Spirit, ended up being the GM there was well, I did some television, which if you have seen it wasn’t that great. But I did it. So, I got these other looks at the sport of soccer, which was nice, I wanted to do that. I wanted to see that, I was in the coaching lane so long, I wanted to see what else was out there. About six months ago to a year, being back in the arena, being back up here, being in the locker room, there was an itch growing in me, and it was growing and growing, growing. It was important for me to step away, to realize that I needed to be back here. As far as the game itself, sometimes stepping away from something, where we’ve all done it, stepping away, gives you a little bit more perspective on the game as well. Just sitting down and watching not in the bubble of a team. So, sitting down with Pat and talking about this proactive style. It really excited me, D.C. United at times, we were very, very pragmatic. The goal was to make playoffs any way possible and more times than not we resorted into kind of a midblock, defensive line looking for transition soccer. That’s not the goal here. That’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to excite the fan base, make sure we have the right culture and spirit, but also play in a way that the fans are proud to be a part of this club. We need more fans in the stadium and how do you do that? You win, you score goals, you play a style where they show up and enjoy themselves.”