Over the course of an MLS career that has spanned eight seasons, Daniel Steres has played for eight different coaches -- nine if you include interim Kenny Bundy who closed out last season with the Houston Dynamo after Paulo Nagamura was fired after 29 games at the helm.
Those coaches, including legends like the late Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena and more modern tacticians like Greg Vanney and Curt Onolfo, all had different ideas, different ways they wanted their teams to play, and different formations.
But Steres has quietly managed to carve out a solid professional career throughout all that change essentially by being that “steady Eddie” player on the team and teammate in the locker room.
And like those who preceded him, Olsen has a few different ideas on how to best utilize Steres. The most recent idea? An experiment at right back.
“I'm not gonna be the one that tells you I want to play right back either, but I guess it is working for now,” Steres said. “It’s what I’ll do for the team.”
And that’s part of the secret sauce that has led to Steres playing nearly 13,000 MLS minutes in 160 regular season matches, including 143 starts.
“My whole career, whether it's players trying to come in and play over me or different coaches trying not to play me, I've just fought my way through,” Steres said. “The best thing you can do for your team is be available and show up when your name is called. If that’s right back, I’ll do what I gotta do.”
Steres said he played at right back in preseason, a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas. He did so again against another in-state rival, Austin FC, two weeks ago and, lo and behold, another 2-0 win, Olsen’s first as Houston manager.
“As far as Daniel Steres, I thought he was as good as anybody,” Olsen said after the match. “That’s an unnatural spot for him and he took his task really well. I thought he controlled that side for most of the night. He’s not a guy that’s going to go end-to-end like Tate [Schmitt] on the other side, but he was disciplined and he made the plays that mattered over the night.”
And on Saturday at newly-named Shell Energy Stadium, Steres was back at right back to help the Dynamo earn a 1-0 win over New York City FC.
After a pair of road losses to start the season, Houston have won back-to-back games at home, bringing some excitement to a fanbase desperate to see their team return to their heights when they won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007.
“We can only go up from here and if you can get this team back to where they belong, how great would that be right, to be a part of that ride and eventually down the road be able to say I was there when we went from bottom of the league to wherever we end up,” Steres said.
Steres is making the most of a chance to play in MLS that took a while to materialize. He didn’t come up through a club’s academy or make his debut as a teenager like some others.
Steres had a solid collegiate career at San Diego State, but didn’t get selected in the MLS SuperDraft. He played on lower levels, for Ventura County Fusion in the PDL and the Wilmington Hammerheads in USL Pro before receiving a call gauging his interest in a new LA Galaxy second team that was just being established.
The Galaxy were the club he supported as a kid, going to Dignity Health Sports Complex to root on the likes of Cobi Jones and Mauricio Cienfuegos as a kid.
“I didn’t even know what it was, but getting that call and to be given the chance to wear that jersey and represent my hometown, stay in my hometown, that was kind of cool,” Steres said. “Just playing on that first team was special for that sake of being the first team to ever do it.”
Steres impressed with Los Dos, earning USL All-League honors and helped guide the team to the semifinals and final in both of his seasons with the club. In both seasons he was named Galaxy II Defender of the Year.
Those 49 matches with the second team was enough for Arena to offer Steres a contract with the first team, which he signed on Dec. 17, 2015 at the age of 25.
The fact Steres played nearly 100 professional matches on the lower levels not only made him ready to play in MLS, but also to appreciate his chance, making sure he grabbed it with both hands.
“It didn't go super smooth so I had to work my way and honestly, I think that helped me because it made me appreciate what I was really fighting for and I got that [nearly] 100 games of experience before even playing an MLS game. I was ready then when it was my number to get called to step in and fill in.”
Steres’ first minutes with the Galaxy came in a substitute appearance in a loss against Santos Laguna in Mexico in the Concacaf Champions League.
And when Jelle Van Damme was hurt at the start of the 2016 season, Steres was called upon to start his first MLS match, a home match against D.C. United. The Galaxy won and Steres scored his first MLS goal.
That remains one of the highlights of his career.
“It was a helluva debut,” Steres said.
The other biggest moment in Steres’ career also came in a Galaxy jersey, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his MLS debut in the first-ever El Trafico derby match against LAFC on March 31, 2018.
The global icon came off the bench to score a pair of goals — a 45-yard half-volley and a stoppage-time header to bring the Galaxy back from a three-goal deficit to win 4-3.
“They're both memories that are just seared into your brain and you can still feel what it was like to be there,” Steres said.
Steres said he also takes something from all those managers -- Arena, Schmid, Dom Kinnear, Guillermo Barros Schelloto, Greg Vanney, Paulo Nagamura and Ben Olsen -- as he looks to extend his “steady Eddie” career.
“It's been interesting too, because they all have different ways of what they expect from their teams and what they expect even more individually from their center backs, so you do get coached differently and each one asks you something different,” Steres said. “You’re picking up little things that I think can be beneficial late in a career like this.”