WASHINGTON – The long grind of Ben Olsen’s first full season as D.C. United head coach ended in disappointment, as a long winless slide at season’s end doomed the club to miss out on the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Still, with a rebuilt roster and a young core, D.C. look primed and ready to continue improving next season. MLSsoccer.com caught up with the former United legend to get his take on 2011 and beyond.
MLSsoccer.com: What are your final thoughts on the way things went this year?
Olsen: I’m still disappointed in the way dealt with the stretch run, obviously, but I’m also pretty much past that and looking towards the future of this club and this group of guys. We’re evaluating what we need, how we can get what we need, which guys can continue to help this club and that’s all we’ve been really doing the last couple weeks.
But it’s good. I’m very excited about getting the group back together and getting some new additions. I have a good feel for what we need now, and I’m excited to go through the process of finding those guys.
MLSsoccer.com: How many players do you think you need to find this offseason?
Olsen: I think we’re a couple players away from being contenders. I have no doubt that the team I have right now, if we played right now, is a potential playoff team. But we want to get better. We’ve got a lot of guys experience and we need to keep pushing and get guys here that are of the right mentality, and we need winners. We need guys that will do anything to get results. I’m pretty serious about trying to find them right now.
MLSsoccer.com: You played a lot of young players this year. How important is the experience they picked up this year?
Olsen: It’s huge. The first year for a professional athlete, it’s very emotional for them, and it’s very tough for them to be consistent. The second year, they usually come back knowing what it takes, knowing how to deal with the physical demands and the mental demands of an entire season. I expect guys like Ethan White, Perry Kitchen, Bill Hamid and even Andy Najar and some of our guys that have been around are still young. It’s another year under their belt and I’m hopeful they’ll come back stronger and be able to come to the club.
MLSsoccer.com: How do you think you did in your first year as head coach?
Olsen: I evaluate myself all the time. I think I did OK – like most coaches, I’ve made some mistakes, I’m sure no coach in this league would tell you they didn’t make any mistakes throughout the year. I was no different. I think I handled some situations good, I think I learned form some situations. I’m not going to give myself a letter grade. ... I’ve learned a lot about myself, a lot about the guys in that locker room and I think that’s the biggest plus out of the year for me.
MLSsoccer.com: What were you trying to do in the last few weeks of postseason training?
Olsen: I have a pretty good idea of who’s out there. We’ll have some guys in, some trialists in and take a look at some guys that might be able to help us. It’s really about just getting continuing with the sharpness and playing the game three more weeks and keeping the fitness so we’re not off two-and-a-half months and everybody comes back in not the greatest shape.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.