WASHINGTON – D.C. United may have been one of the league’s youngest teams, and head coach Ben Olsen may have been in his first full season on the sidelines. But Olsen still lamented missing the postseason, falling just short of an epic turnaround after the disappointment of 2010.
It was that sort of mentality and fight that earned the praise of his players at season’s end.
“I think he’s been great for us,” midfielder Stephen King told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a big part of the reason why we’ve been getting better and made huge improvements this year. Everyone respects him, and the passion he has not only for the game but this organization – he’s been here for so long and he’s been a part of it as a player for so long, and now as a coach he understands what it takes to win championships.”
Veteran Santino Quaranta, who played alongside Olsen for years, agreed with King.
“It’s difficult being a coach and managing so many different players and getting stuff thrown at you that you’re not ready for,” Quaranta said. “He did fine, and I think as players you learn, and as coaches I’m sure you take things from this season and learn from it and grow from it.”
Olsen, who began his playing career in D.C. back in 1998, took a team coming off their worst performance in club history in 2010. In 2011, he kept them alive through the last week of the season.
Forward Josh Wolff, a teammate of Olsen on various US squads and long-time opponent throughout their years in MLS, saw a lot of the player in the man on the sidelines.
“He coaches with his heart, passion and energy – the way he played,” Wolff explained. “But I think there becomes a more cerebral effect to it because now you’re controlling 30 people with your staff, and there’s a lot that goes into it from start to finish.”
Wolff, who is actually a few months older than Olsen, thinks that the first-year coach is more than capable of bringing United back to the top of the league, and that the future is indeed bright.
“He’s been around this league and he’s been in this city long enough to really understand what he wants to see on the field and give these fans,” Wolff said. “I think there was a lot of up-side this year for sure, and you’ve got a good group of young guys that still have to be coached in the right way to train, right way to play and right way to manage themselves during the week and on their own.
“I think a lot will go into it to the next few months and how they shape this team not for just the beginning of next year, but the next couple of years.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.