The U.S. Open Cup final was, as everything featuring Inter Miami is these days, billed as the Lionel Messi show. Instead, those who watched from DRV PNK Stadium and at home were treated to an entertaining display from the Houston Dynamo, who won 2-1 on Wednesday.
It marks the Dynamo's first trophy since their Open Cup triumph in 2018 and comes not long after Ben Olsen was hired in 2022 to lead a rebuild following a trophy drought and a several-year stint in which they missed the MLS Cup playoffs. Less than two years into the project, things seem to be clicking in Houston.
The Dynamo dominated Miami from the get-go in a performance that was convincing regardless of the fact that Messi and Jordi Alba were missing from the hosts' lineup. Houston racked up 18 shots and scored twice, with attack-minded players Nelson Quinones, Hector Herrera and Amine Bassi impressing throughout the first half. The visitors also limited Miami to just one shot, which was off target.
"When things are clicking and we're moving the ball, we're dangerous," Olsen told CBS Sports after the final whistle.
Things changed in the second half when Miami started to slowly find some opportunities, which required the Dynamo to showcase their abilities to hold onto their lead. Despite conceding in the 92nd minute, they successfully did so against a Miami team that seemed hesitant to shoot even when the game favored them.
"We showed two sides of us," he said. "For most of the second half, it was about resiliency, defending a little bit at times more than we wanted to but we saw it out."
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Olsen noted that the tactical flexibility is necessary to succeed in MLS and the Open Cup, especially a cup final against a Miami team that boasts plenty of talent, even without Messi and Alba.
"Throughout the season, we've had to rely on both of those [sides]," he said. "You need to do both in this league. You can't always play a full game at a really high level. This team's hard. If you don't stick the knife in when you get a third chance, a fourth chance, you know they're going to continue to come back. There's too much quality on that field. They were missing a player or two, but I don't really care. I don't really care."
The result serves as quite the vote of confidence in Olsen and his vision, and the same goes for how the team is faring in MLS play. The Dynamo currently sit third in the Western Conference and a win like this could set the tone as they aim to clinch a playoff spot and potentially make a deep run in the postseason.
"It's a wonderful feeling and all year we've been trying to build something and we've got a long way to go at the organization to get to where we want to be but this helps," Olsen said. "This speeds up some things. That's what this is all about."