Canadian Pat Onstad, who helped Houston win two MLS championships as a player, has returned to the Dynamo as general manager.
The 53-year-old from Vancouver comes from Columbus Crew, where he spent the last eight years — most recently as technical director and vice-president of soccer operations.
Onstad previously served as chief scout and manager of football partnerships for Toronto FC. He was also an assistant coach with both Columbus and D.C. United.
Onstad said he hopes to help the Dynamo reconnect with its fans and the community.
Ted Segal, who reportedly paid US$400 million in June for a majority ownership position, said he will provide the resources for Onstad to turn the team around.
“There will be resources coming this off-season … I think when you see the (MLS) salaries released at this time next year that you’ll be able to judge us and it will be significantly different from where we are today,” he told a news conference.
Added Onstad: “This was the No. 1 reason why I thought this is a gentleman here that believes in the city, is willing to support the club and give this club an opportunity to move forward.”
Segal is the founder and president of EJS Group, a New York City-based real estate development and financing company.
The club also has high-profile minority investors in f NBA star James Harden and former boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
The Houston franchise has been looking for a GM since Matt Jordan, GM and senior vice-president, left in late August with the club mired in a 15-game winless streak. Houston, which has been eliminated from playoff contention, currently stands 12th in the 13-team Western Conference with a 6-15-12 record.
Onstad wasn’t the only former Canadian ‘keeper to rejoin a former team’s front office on Monday. Karina LeBlanc was named GM of the NWSL Portland Thorns.
Onstad retired in 2010 after a 25-year playing career as an elite goalkeeper, joining D.C. United’s coaching staff the next year when he made a brief comeback as a player before returning to the sideline
He claimed three MLS Cup titles as a player, also winning the championship with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003, and was named MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2003 and 2005. He also captured the 1999 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with the Rochester Rhinos.
Onstad became part of Dynamo lore when he stopped New England’s Jay Heaps in a penalty shootout to win the 2006 MLS championship.
“Probably the best memory of my career,” he said.
He celebrated the championship-winning save by running towards Houston fans in the stands in Frisco, Texas, sliding on his knees.
“These are the moments that whether it’s a general manager, a player, a coach, an owner, that you never forget, these moments where you can connect with the fans,” he said. “That was a moment that was very special to me and something I’ll never forget.”
Segal said Onstad impressed with an 80-slide PowerPoint presentation in the first interview. The second meeting featured a more detailed 100-slide presentation.
“I would say he stood out from the very beginning and then he confirmed it that second go-round,” said Segal.
On the international scene, Onstad won 60 caps for Canada, posting 24 shutouts.
Onstad left D.C. United to join TFC in January 2013 as chief scout and manager of football partnerships. He departed Toronto a year later when Tim Leiweke, then president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, cleaned out the front office.
Onstad joined the Crew in 2014 as an assistant coach on Gregg Berhalter’s staff and was promoted to technical director and vice president of soccer operations prior to the 2019 season after serving as interim GM after Berhalter left to coach the U.S. team.
“I am immensely proud of Pat as he has earned this opportunity and elevated role within MLS,” Columbus president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko, a former top Toronto FC executive, said in a statement. “Having had the pleasure of working with Pat over the past three seasons, I know that his knowledge of the league and dedication to the role will help him to excel as a general manager.”
Onstad was named Canadian player of the year in 2003 and was twice named to the MLS Best XI (2003, 2005).
He played for teams in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton before finding a home with Rochester where he played from 1998 to 2002, with a brief stint with Scotland’s Dundee United in the middle.
He came to MLS in 2003 and went on to play 282 regular-season and playoff games with San Jose, Houston and D.C. United.
Onstad is a member of the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame, Soccer Hall of Fame of British Columbia, United Soccer Leagues Hall of Fame and UBC Sports Hall of Fame.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press