De Rosario credits Olsen after picking up MVP award

WASHINGTON — There’s little doubt that Dwayne De Rosario’s move to D.C. United played a huge part in the 33-year-old capturing the 2011 MLS MVP award last week.

The Canadian veteran went on a tear after a move to D.C. in late June, scoring 13 times and adding seven assists in 17 games. But it wasn’t just a new environment that helped him put on an MVP-caliber performance, it was also thanks to the help of Ben Olsen, who completed his first full year as head coach

The recently crowned MLS MVP paid tribute to his former peer ­and now current manager after receiving the award last Friday.

“He’s a guy that I have a great respect for as a player and now as a coach,” De Rosario told reporters in a conference call. “I played all the youth levels of the national team against Ben; ­he’s a great competitor, he’s a winner, he’s a very smart player and he’s brought that as a coach.”

Olsen showed to have the right instincts about where to use the Canadian international, playing him either up front or as an attacking midfielder after his arrival in D.C.

According to Olsen, De Rosario’s arrival completely transformed the squad.

“He’s changed the entire team,” he said after a season-ending loss to Sporting KC. “With Dwayne, you’re always a play away from either him setting up a goal or doing it himself. We haven’t had that player since Jaime [Moreno]. It’s really nice as a coach to have a guy like that.”

Before arriving in D.C., De Rosario had two stops along the way ­ two games for Toronto FC, and a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls. With the move south to the Nation’s Capital came a new role, one where De Rosario could play a style that he felt suited him better.

“When I got to D.C., [Olsen] pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen, I want you to play your game, I want you to play an instinctive, free role,’ which I think I’m best suited for,” De Rosario said. “One thing Ben provided for me is that environment where I could roam freely and play more [attacking], whereas in New York, I was more of a holding midfielder, dictating the tempo and the pace of the game.”

Since the team fell short of the playoffs this year, Olsen knows the team needs to add more weapons and pieces around the now reigning league MVP in order to achieve more in 2012.

“Now it’s my job to give him a little bit more support both up top and in the back and make this group a better team,” Olsen said. “I have no doubt we’ll do it.”

As far as his future lies, De Rosario’s contract expires at the end of the 2012 season, although D.C. have shown an interest in signing him to an extension. While no talks have taken place thus far, they are expected over the next few weeks.

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