WASHINGTON – It’s tough for many D.C. United fans to imagine an organization without Ben Olsen, and it looks like – for the foreseeable future – they may not have to.
The affable head coach has been with United in some capacity since 1998, and a Washington Post report on Wednesday suggested that he could be close to extending that stay, with Olsen reportedly on the brink of inking a contract extension.
The club offered no comment on the report, standard practice for contract negotiations involving personnel. Olsen also declined comment.
The former United and USMNT midfielder has guided his club through what could end up being the greatest turnaround in MLS history, taking a re-built crew from a three-win outfit in 2013 to bona fide Supporters’ Shield contenders in 2014.
If Olsen's long-term prospects were fuzzy after last year’s performance – which, it’s worth mentioning, included an improbable US Open Cup title – they are certainly clearer after a campaign that many are arguing is Coach of the Year worthy.
“There was one big down [in my time coaching here,] that was last year,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. "I thought the other years we were growing. Two years ago we went to the finals and were a call away from going to MLS Cup. If you have a year like we did last year, you could be gone, and I’m fortunate enough that they stuck by me.”
"I try and look at it as a year where I learned a lot about crisis management and managing in very, very tough circumstances,” Olsen added.
Olsen’s tenure as head coach has certainly been a wild ride – he took the helm of a lackluster 2010 side before narrowly missing the playoffs in 2011. In 2012, he got a taste of glory. In 2013, he got a look at the depths. All the while, Olsen has remained a fixture at RFK Stadium.
"I had no idea what I was getting into [in 2010.],” Olsen said. "When I asked for the job, I had no idea what went into this. I had no life preparation for being in a management role. I’ve slowly grown into being someone that has gained some experience and I’ve got a long way to go tactically and from a management standpoint."
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For now, Olsen seems to be enjoying his work. It would be hard not to: United enter their match with Vancouver this weekend four points clear of second-place Kansas City in the East and remain in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield. But Olsen’s past struggles have certainly taught him to keep one eye on the horizon.
"There’s always something in this business. It has these moments of euphoria – those don’t last very long, you have to get back to work and try and get a result on the weekend. It’s the nature of the job, but it’s certainly been more fun this year than last.”
“[A coaching position is] extremely results oriented, it’s a weekly ups and downs, Olsen concluded. "I try to step back, and that’s one thing I”d like to get better at is to separate the emotion of it, and as the years go on that’s something I’m able to do a bit more."