2012 in Review: Q&A with DC United head coach Ben Olsen

MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.

2012 record: 17-10-7 (58 points); 53 GF / 43 GA (+10 GD)

2012 D.C. United statistics

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While so many of D.C. United’s players contributed to a successful 2012 season, it’d be impossible not to credit 35-year-old coach Ben Olsen for the club’s return to relevance after a 17-10-7 season (58 points).

The end-of-year matches felt, as Olsen himself put it, like the old days at RFK Stadium, and he continually inspired his group to perform at a high level no matter the odds.

With a string of brilliant tactical substitutions down the stretch and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Championship fresh on his mind, United’s charismatic head coach weighed in on the season that was.

MLSsoccer.com: What are your overall thoughts on the season?

Olsen: We’re very proud of the guys and the way they went about this season. My message to them before the offseason is that we didn’t win anything. As great as the year was and the feedback we’re getting from fans and the community is good, it’s realizing why we are getting that type of response from the community and fans and organization. And it was hard work and overcoming certain obstacles. The other message is, again, we didn’t win anything. And that’s the goal here. That’s what we need to do.

MLSsoccer.com: What’s the next step?

WATCH: 2012 D.C. United Highlights

Olsen: It starts with the offseason. It starts with getting better and getting stronger and thinking consistently in the offseason that we still have something to prove. And that thing to prove is that we can be champions in some form. I hope that sticks with them. We’re not thinking that we’ve arrived.

MLSsoccer.com: Do you consider this year a success?

Olsen: It’s tough to call it a success. This is still about winning championships. I do think it’s a success in the fact that we believe in the foundation here now and a success that we’ve got a community and fanbase and organization behind us again. And a good feeling around the club. That’s part of this process. But it’s just, hopefully, the beginning. It’s always tough to say the season’s a success unless you win a championship.

MLSsoccer.com: The team overcame a lot of obstacles this season, which was most difficult?

Olsen: There’s a whole list. I’ve been keeping a diary of them. The DeRo incident. Injuries that other guys stepped up to [the challenge]. Down the stretch, in the playoff run, the obstacles that we overcame were pretty impressive whether it was red cards, snow games, rescheduling, two days rest to go play in Houston. All these things in the end, I think we overcame so many of them and I think we just kind of ran out. In the end, we just ran up against too many of them. You’d like to continue to move forward, but we caught a lot of breaks this year, too. As much as we’ve had obstacles, we’ve had a little luck along the way, so it could have ended up a different way very easily. We have to understand that, too.

MLSsoccer.com: What are your biggest offseason needs?

Olsen: We’re going to have to make a couple changes, and we’re going to have to replace some guys. I think we’re going to have to continue looking for a striker – a guy who is a top-class type guy that can really get us to the next level. I thought all our forwards gave us good moments this year. None of them had a real complete year from a playing, scoring and production standpoint. They all helped this year, but in the end, do we need a big-time forward? Yeah. I’d like to have that. It’s not easy to get that, so we’ll continue to search for that. Our depth in the midfield can get better, too. Those two areas, in particular, we need to get better at.

Matchday in 90: D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo

MLSsoccer.com: Of all the special moments this year, which sticks out most?

Olsen: The New York game [a 1-0 win at Red Bull Arena in the Eastern Conference semifinals] was a real special moment, I think, for this club. The fans the other night [at RFK Stadium against Houston in the Eastern Conference Championship] was a special moment for myself and the players. The Columbus game [to clinch a playoff spot], that was a great night. That was the first real special night this year and probably one of the real special nights we’ve had in this building for a couple years.

MLSsoccer.com: How optimistic are you about the future?

Olsen: We talk about laying a foundation here – having something special for years to come. And I believe that it’s here. I really do. It’s a bunch of great young guys who are willing to fight and do what it takes. This experience [in the playoffs] was invaluable for them, being in these real games down the stretch. They’ve done a lot for this organization this year, I think, putting us back on the map a little bit and hopefully we can continue growing and getting better.