WASHINGTON – Ben Olsen knows a thing or two about pressure. If you ask him, he feels it every day.
"Absolutely, I feel pressure," Olsen told MLSsoccer just before the start of D.C.'s 2014 campaign. "I usually feel like I need a win, going into any game. It's always nice to start out well, and especially nice to start out well after you have a bad season."
"Bad" may be putting it lightly. United's 2013 was historically awful – D.C. set multiple records for offensive and defensive futility en route to the worst record in their 17-year history. As one might expect after such an awful campaign, many fans and pundits put United's lackluster performance squarely on Olsen's shoulders.
Not every coach can survive that – but then again, Ben Olsen is not just any coach, not at RFK Stadium, at least. In 11 years as a player with United, his teams racked up an impressive list of accolades – two MLS Cups, three Supporters' Shields, a US Open Cup title and even a CONCACAF Champions' Cup trophy. As a head coach, an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Championship in 2012 only added to that lore.
Even in the midst of last season's race to the bottom, Olsen managed still more silverware, guiding his team to an improbable Open Cup win.
His status as a fan favorite – and his decade and a half of service at D.C. – have perhaps afforded him a bit more slack than would traditionally be given to a young coach. It's something Olsen is certainly aware of, and it likely only fuels his desire to right the ship.
But 2013's regular-season failure – and the calls, by some, for a new head coach – doesn’t necessarily mean that Olsen feels any more pressure than he usually does at the onset of a new campaign.
- Get the latest DCU news at DCUnited.com
"There was a lot of pressure last year," said Olsen. "And the year before that – this is what we do. We’re judged on results. Whether it’s the staff or players, we’re going to be judged if we win or lose. Has it ramped up a little bit? I feel the same excitement and anxiety that I had about this time last year."
As for his players, those who spoke to MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday ahead of their first road match of 2014 on Saturday against Toronto FC (4:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada, MLS Live in US) – following their 3-0 loss to Columbus in their season opener two weeks ago – were all quick to assert their support for Olsen while also dismissing the idea that they're "fighting for Olsen's job."
"We are all fighting for all of our jobs," said United midfielder Conor Doyle.