FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA -- On the eve of (live on Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network), the Houston Dynamo have a chance to complete a drastic turnaround. After failing to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs or win any silverware since their victory over the Philadelphia Union in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup final, they are just 90 minutes away from potentially ending that drought by defeating Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. While several factors have contributed to the Dynamo's resurgence, including the appointment of head coach Ben Olsen, one of the catalysts for this improvement has been the addition of midfielder Hector Herrera.
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Joining the club in 2022 on a free transfer from Atletico Madrid, the Mexico international was convinced that there was more to this Dynamo team than a side that missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons and kept faith in the team after missing the postseason again after making the move from Spain. Herrera was a signing that showed Houston were serious about competing and with Olsen at the helm, the former Porto manl has been able to showcase his creative side, registering four goals and 14 assists in league play this season. Ahead of their biggest game in recent history, Olsen expressed his admiration for the midfielder.
"He's been massive. I've talked about it many times. He's helped me. We've fostered a very good relationship, one built on trust and freedom in some ways. He's been given the keys to this team and he understands that," Olsen said in a press conference ahead of the final. "The group, the group dynamics, he has a real weight on his shoulders and responsibility to do well for the club and make sure he's a huge part of turning this club around as a [designated player], a lot of money was spent to bring him here and he understands all that."
"I think last year, he took a little heat because he didn't come in here and tear the league up but he had a World Cup looming last year, he had a little injury, he had a brand new team, and it wasn't his team. This year was a blank canvas for him and his leadership has been helpful for me and, certainly, his play on the field has been a lot of fun to watch. His relationships on the field at times have put together some of the best soccer that I've ever been a part of as a coach."
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The team that controls the midfield will win this match, and despite winning 12 games so far this season in league play, Houston are still considered underdogs because they don't have stars as big as Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. However, they have also proven that they only needed Herrera and players who can complement him in the side. Olsen made sure to note that the team "hasn't won anything yet," but the signs of their improvement are as clear as day. Houston has a group of players who fight for each other and are just as engaged defensively as they are in attack, while Olsen has proven to be the leader they need to take the next step.
While this match won't be the Dynamo's last chance to take that next step, it's certainly preferable to prove their validity by winning another Open Cup final to show that this journey has been worth it to their fans. If the Dynamo are able to do it, Herrera will likely be central to the performance but that's just how it should be.