Today, the Houston Dynamo woke up in last place of the Western Conference. Sadly, the club has been here before. Yes, the season for the Dynamo isn’t over yet, of course, with 7 matches remaining on the schedule and 21 points still up in the air. However, the playoffs (playoffs?!) would be all but a miracle, looking at the competition that the club will face.
With a new majority owner in Ted Segal, a new general manager in Pat Onstad, and a new promising head coach in Paulo Nagamura, many fans had high hopes of seeing a 180 turnaround from the team’s underperformance of the past. The hype, the build up, smelled to many Houston Dynamo fans that the team would make the postseason because that was the goal that was stated by the club’s front office.
In reality, this year was always going to be a rough year for the Dynamo, and for its passionate fans. This season would be set to evaluate the squad that the past regime had put together, to add a few pieces that could possible give the team that finished in last place 2-years straight a boost. The bad business that was done and left for the new guys to clean up was much bigger than expected. Here is a recap of each component so far this season:
During one of the shortest off-seasons ever, Paulo Nagamura was appointed the new head coach a month and a half before the start of the 2022 campaign. He couldn’t rearrange the roster as he would have liked as Pat Onstad had to make such decisions before Paulo’s arrival. Sebastian Ferreira, Zeca, and Thiago Fernandes were added during the first transfer window. Nagamura has showed that as a first-year coach, he has not been afraid to approach each game with a different game plan and tactics for every team faced. The starting eleven has never been the same. He is evaluating the players he can select from and gives everyone a fair shot to prove that they can fit the system that he wants to play.
While it feels like a long time ago since the last win, Nagamura has accumulated 7 wins this season with 3 of them being on the road. The matter of fact has been that at home, the team has lost too many valuable points. Besides the overall record of 7 wins, 15 losses, and 5 draws, Nagamura’s squad has once looked completely outplayed, outperformed, and flatlined and that was against the Philadelphia Union. Out of the 15 losses the Dynamo have lost 73% of those matches by just a one goal difference and ending with similar stats to their opponent. The team’s lack of depth is noticeable when Nagamura looks to close out games. His team never stops, never gives up, but the squad limitation is there. Now he will be challenged by teams like LAFC, who are fighting for important things at the end of the season, unlike the Dynamo.
Responsibility can’t only land solely on the shoulders of the head coach when a team is not performing well. The players, at the end of the day, must make things happen on the pitch. A lot of fat was trimmed during the offseason. While the introduction of Steve Clark and Daniel Steres have improved the depth from last season, the team is still composed of misfits that have been part of losing seasons with a club that is trying to change the tide. Hector Herrera was brought in and is bought into the project at hand. But Hector alone can’t create, attack, score and defend. The team still has no orchestrator, that can break other teams apart with vision and possession. Darwin Quintero is a very talented player, but he is not a 90-minute player that can change matches every week.
The lack of productivity from the wide game has seen rookie Thor Ulfarsson be pushed into a winger position due to his upside in the attack. Thiago was brought in to help Nagamura fill that need, just to find out that the club had made a big mistake signing him in the first place as MLS was too big a step for the young Brazilian attacker. However, the players are up for the fight every match. The players never give up. But the Houston Dynamo are one of the worst teams in MLS because the talent or lack of it, is noticeable.
The General Manager
Speaking of roster building, no one is more important in this than the general manager. Dynamo legend Pat Onstad was hired last November to help reboot the winning mentality in Houston. It was important to have a strategy in place that surely made 95% of that famous PowerPoint presentation to the ownership group during his interview process. While, Onstad has had experience as a technical director with Columbus, this is Pat’s first time in the role of a general manager. Onstad is a great person to link the club and its fans to the past, the present and the future of the club. However, the man is not perfect like the rest of the world. The most refreshing thing about Onstad is how transparent he is, even to the fact of bluntly admitting when he has made a mistake, like in acquisition of the young Brazilian Thiago mentioned earlier.
It takes time to undo all the mistakes that the past regime made for seven years. One can’t just snap their fingers and make it disappear; this is not a Disney film. This project is a process, that needs a ton of work, the type of work that includes putting gloves on for a deep clean type of work. If hiring Paulo Nagamura was a mistake, and it’s putting the project in jeopardy, then we can trust that he will make the call. One thing is clear, Pat Onstad was entrusted by the club with an owner that seems to really care about waking up the sleeping giant that is Houston soccer.
Ted, Ted, Ted. Where have you been all this time Ted Segal? He recently increased his ownership stake in the club after buying out Gabriel Brener, Oscar De La Hoya and Ben Guill. Segal came in and has put his money where his mouth is. He understands what he has in Houston, one of the biggest cities in the United States. Houston is a soccer city through and through, and earned the opportunity to host a few games during the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Segal came in and quickly made some splashs on the team. Sebastian Ferreira became the most expensive transfer in team history, and he brought in the captain of the Mexican national team in Hector Herrera; players to build a project around.
Segal trusts Pat Onstad and facilitates the budget for Pat to make moves as needed, even with all the limitations and restrictions due to the lack of GAM, TAM and international roster spots. Segal understands that the product on the field needs to improve as well as the fan experience outside of it. He has approved for a massive stadium overhaul that will improve seating and other amenities at PNC Stadium. Ted Segal is the owner many have been asking for and the owner Houston soccer teams needed. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and Segal will expect plenty of return in his investment.
The driving force behind Houston soccer will always be the fans. Soccer is not just a sport but a lifestyle to many Houstonians. The Houston Dynamo have struggled for the last nine years, not making the playoffs often and only winning a US Open Cup title during that span. The stadium had lost it’s spark and energy, but this year, the atmosphere and passion has overtaken many of the matches at PNC Stadium. Led by El Batallon, the Surge, Texian Army and the rest of the Hustle Town supporters, the energy is being revived. However, the results on the pitch are just not happening.
The fans have every right to let their disappointment with the club be heard. Every Houston Dynamo fan wants this team to be successful, to be competing for trophies, and time will always be of the essence. The club should be grateful to have such passionate fans that are here, chanting, clapping, pushing the team on. One thing stands true, players and coaches come and go, but the love for the team is there forever.