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LAFC looks to ‘shake it off,’ get rolling again in Houston

Sep 11, 2023

Asked how he views the Los Angeles Football Club after it stumbled in the two-leg CONCACAF Champions League final and followed that with a third straight goal-less match at BMO Stadium, Houston Dynamo head coach Ben Olsen wasn't going there.

"Do you want me to feel bad for LAFC?" he quipped a couple of days before the Black & Gold traveled to Houston. "I don't know how they are emotionally.

"I’m concerned with the Houston Dynamo and our energy levels and making sure we bring what we have this weekend to a very good opponent."

On a warm, muggy Saturday night in southern Texas, Olsen won't be on the bench. He was suspended one match after receiving his third yellow card of the season in their last game.

"The referees used to have thicker skin in this league," Olsen complained. "Now they just toss out yellow cards. Three yellow cards is what I’ve gotten. That's the rules."

Assistant coach Brendan Burke will assume Olsen's role before he returns for the next match at BMO Stadium, which was moved from April 29 to June 14 to accommodate LAFC's CCL run.

In his first year with Houston after 23 as a player and coach at D.C. United, Olsen knows what everyone in Major League Soccer does: the schedule is overcrowded whether or not your team made it to the CONCACAF final.

For its part, Houston advanced to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals with a win Tuesday night in Chicago, closing an extended trip on a good note despite losses in Vancouver and St. Louis by a combined score of 9-2.

"Guess what, we’ve been on the road for 10 days and we have our own wounds to lick at times," Olsen said. "We’re all in this. We’re all dealing with the crazy schedule because of the Leagues Cup and the emotional rollercoaster of the season."

On the field, Houston (5-7-3, 18 points) has also been reprimanded by the referees with a league-high four red cards because of silly decisions mixed with the harsh side of playing hard-nosed soccer.

"I’m asking guys to play on an edge of intensity and grit that at times boils over," Olsen said. "That's what you see at times with our group. I’m not condoning it. It doesn't help us with results, obviously playing down a man.

"We don't want those to happen. We want less of those. But we also need to be on the edge and play there and be physical and not backing down from teams."

In Houston, that formula has produced a 5-1-1 record and the Dynamo have conceded just twice.

"We’re coming home and the mentality sometimes heightens a little bit for players and staff when you’re playing the champs," Olsen said. "I hope that's the case. I hope we bring our best."

LAFC has one loss in six road matches but at the moment is having trouble putting the ball in the net, scoring once in four matches while winning three of its past 12 appearances in all competitions.

Denis Bouanga can join Carlos Vela as the only LAFC player to score in four consecutive road games. But with several players prepared to depart for international duty, plus the ongoing impact of injuries and the heavy demands of the schedule, less notable LAFC players could get chances to spark a breakthrough.

Said defender Ryan Hollingshead: "We need to just shake it off and get back to it."

When: Saturday, 5:39 p.m. PT

Where: Shell Energy Stadium

TV/Radio: Apple TV+ – Free/710 AM, 980 AM

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