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The Pitch: Olsen's "Cowboys" Lead Houston into Texas Showdown

April 16, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

Below is a selection of marquee MLS matches to watch during Matchday 10 action on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app.

Raining Goals in the Midwest: A swashbuckling fixture that saw 20 goals scored across five regular season and postseason matches in 2023 makes its debut in 2024 as Sporting Kansas City hosts St. Louis CITY SC on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET).

Ten years after he captured the MLS Coach of the Year award in 2014, Ben Olsen is once again maximizing the talent up and down his roster as Houston Dynamo FC sit in third place in the Western Conference (13 points, 4-2-1). The club continues to impress on the field despite just a combined 112 minutes of action from the Designated Player duo Sebastián Ferreira and Héctor Herrera , the latter of whom recorded 21 goal contributions last year. Maintaining that success has required a special mix of talent and "moxie", which Olsen sees in droves in the 2024 edition of the squad.

"These guys are cowboys, man. They want to roll and win games," said Olsen following the club's 2-1 victory at Minnesota United FC on Matchday 9. "Sometimes you just have to let them go, and I think there's a lot to this group as there was last year. They've got some moxie, they've got a belief, and they're fearless."

The Dynamo, who finished fourth in the West during Olsen's first season with the club in 2023, have had six different players score this season, including a club-high three from 22-year-old forward Ibrahim Aliyu in his second MLS season. The Dynamo have seen 19 different players score since the start of last season, which is tied for the fourth-most over that span.

With the return of Herrera on the horizon and Ferreira returning to play with a goal in his first start of the season (March 30), reinforcements are on the way as the club looks to keep their cowboy mentality and continue climbing the Western Conference table on Matchday 10 against in-state rival Austin FC on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV).

The Philadelphia Union remains the last unbeaten in MLS in 2024, but the club's success doesn't stop there as the entire player pathway is humming for the Union. In MLS NEXT Pro, Union II are unbeaten (3-2-0) and the club's U17 side recently won the 2024 Generation adidas Cup title. Philadelphia's successful player development model has been working for years, and the introduction of Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc has refined the model to produce a new batch of up-and-coming young talent.

After a successful 13-year career as the head coach at West Virigina University, LeBlanc joined the Union in 2020, working with the U17 side and throughout the entire academy system. When MLS NEXT Pro was launched in 2022, he became the head coach for Union II and helped connect the player pathway from academy to NEXT Pro to MLS.

The Union has produced world-class talent recently - Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, and Auston Trusty - with LeBlanc playing a pivotal role in the development of the exciting next wave. In MLS, Jack McGlynn (20) and Quinn Sullivan (20) have become key first-team starters while Sal Olivas (18) and goalkeeper Andrew Rick (18) have impressed in MLS NEXT Pro. The budding stars from GA Cup are also making the leap to LeBlanc's Union II, including Cavan Sullivan, Neil Pierre, Diego Rocio, and his own son, Kellen LeBlanc.

To create world-class players, clubs need to have world-class coaches and leaders in place. For the Union, LeBlanc exemplifies that, and he has shepherded one of the league's deepest youth talent pools that is poised to make Philadelphia a force at all levels for years to come.

The New York City Council voted last week to approve the New York City FC 25,000-seat soccer stadium, which will be located at Willets Point in Queens.


Ahead of the New York Red Bulls game on Saturday, AlphaTauri dressed players with slick matchday fits.

Drip Check

The U.S. Soccer Federation initiated construction on its inaugural National Training Center and Headquarters in Atlanta, revealing the facility for the first time under the name of the Arthur M. Blank U.S. Soccer National Training Center.

New Digs in Atlanta

A legend in the Rose City, 38-year-old Diego Chará sits just one game away from tying Chris Wondolowski (376) for the most appearances for a single club in MLS history. The Colombian has been with the Portland Timbers since day one, signing as the club's first-ever Designated Player during their inaugural MLS season in 2011, and has been among the gold standard of Designated Players in the history of the league.

The ageless Colombian has been a cornerstone of the Timbers' midfield since then, leading the club to its first MLS Cup title in 2015 and two more MLS Cup appearances in 2018 and 2021. He became the first field player in MLS history to play 30,000 regular season minutes for one club, accomplishing the feat midway through 2023, and is on track to be one of a select group of players to make 400 MLS regular-season appearances later this season.

Chará has trailblazed a path to the highest level of the game in the United States from South America for the likes of Miguel Almirón, Yangel Herrera, and Thiago Almada. The veteran has also been among the most era-defining South Americans in the league's history and has built a legacy much like fellow South Americans Luciano Acosta, the reigning MLS MVP, and 2019 MLS Cup champion Raúl Ruidíaz. following in his footsteps with FC Cincinnati and Seattle Sounders FC, respectively.

MLS will debut the Off-Field Treatment (OTR) and Timed Substitution rules beginning with games played on April 20. The initiatives, which were piloted in MLS NEXT Pro, prioritize player health and safety, evolving the game while upholding the integrity of the competition.

Off-Field Treatment Rule

The Off-Field Treatment Rule allows medical professionals time to assess and treat players off the field of play in a less pressurized environment. If a player with a suspected injury remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds, the referee will stop play and wave the medical crew onto the field to evaluate the player. When safe, the player will be removed from the field and remain off it for at least two minutes for further assessment and treatment.

Timed Substitution Rule

Maximizing effective match time, the Timed Substitution Rule requires that a substituted player exit the field within 10 seconds. Failure to exit from any point on the field within the 10 seconds will cause the incoming player to wait for a 60-second holding period, before entering the game at the next stoppage. During the holding period and prior to the substitute entering, the team will play down a player. Exceptions to the rule include injury and goalkeeper substitutions.

Additionally, beginning with games this weekend, VAR decisions will be explained and announced by the referee to fans in-stadium and broadcast viewers at home.

Other initiatives, including the Return to Play Equity protocol and stoppage time clock, took effect at the start of the 2024 MLS regular season.

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Major League Soccer Stories from April 16, 2024

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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