DC United's Onstad enjoys new role as coach in 2011

WASHINGTON – After more than 20 years playing professionally, D.C. United assistant coach Pat Onstad got to see how the other half lives this season.

Aside from a brief, three-game stint playing in goal for D.C. at the beginning of the year due to injury concerns, Onstad spent the rest of the season in a new role as an assistant coach under Ben Olsen, his onetime on-field antagonist.

“It’s been good,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s been an interesting process in the sense that I think when you’re a player you always want instant gratification, you want things to change then and there and as a coach you can be a lot more patient.”

The experience Onstad picked up over a long playing career is only going to help D.C.’s stable of goalkeepers: Bill Hamid, Steve Cronin and Joe Willis. Even though he’s an assistant coach for the entire team, Onstad would spend the majority of training sessions with the ‘keeper trio.

Hamid, United's first Home Grown signing and a starter at just 20 years old, has earned a few US call-ups in the past few months, but Onstad is preaching patience with the young shot-stopper.

“He’s still got a long way to go,” Onstad said. “It’s a daily process with him. I think you try to get him better day in, day out and just try to work on the little things. Still learning the game, which is a big thing. Most goalkeepers don’t peak until their late 20s, early 30s and I think that’s a lot to do with reading the game.

“When you’re young and you haven’t seen a lot of action, it’s tough for you to dissolve problems until after the fact and the key is to try to diffuse it before it happens, and that really just comes with experience. He’s a work in progress but it’s nice to see him recognized with the US group.”

Up next for Onstad and the rest of the coaching staff is to complete evaluations of the current roster – United are training for the next two weeks – before taking a look at college players in postseason action and gearing up for next January’s SuperDraft and preseason.

“[The offseason is] still trial by fire for me to a certain extent, but the nice thing is I came in right the first couple days of January so I got a feel for January and gearing up for the draft and what that was like,” Onstad said. “This year’s nice because I’ll have a little more prep time, get a chance to see some more college games and players and prepare for that draft.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.