Olsen introduced as D.C. United head coach

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Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com

By AVI CREDITOR

WASHINGTON – After officially completing his 180-degree turn about his stance on D.C. United's head coaching situation, team president and chief executive officer Kevin Payne insisted that Ben Olsen was the man for the job all along.

The 33-year-old Olsen was officially introduced as D.C. United's head coach Monday at RFK Stadium, shedding the interim label that he carried for the final 12 games of the regular season.

The introduction came just months after Payne claimed publicly that Olsen would not be the head coach of the team in 2011 and that he wanted him to be more experienced and put in a position to succeed with his first head coaching gig.

"My earlier comments notwithstanding whether or not Ben would be the head coach, Dave (Kasper, DCU general manager) and I independently came to the conclusion that the best candidate for the job was Ben," Payne said.

Olsen, who retired from his playing career almost a year to the day of his appointment as head coach, went 3-8-1 after taking over for the dismissed Curt Onalfo in August. More importantly, though, he earned the trust and respect of his players, some of whom used to be his teammates, while getting the team to play hard as a lost season wound down.

The highlight of his interim stint was a 1-0 victory over the eventual MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

"The last six months showed me I have the capabilities of leading this group," said Olsen, who signed a three-year contract with options that could extend the deal. "I'm very confident at this point that I can lead this team.

"Am I still a young coach? Are there things I need to learn? Of course. I will assemble a very experienced, knowledgable staff that will help me every step of the way."

The team confirmed that Chad Ashton will be one of Olsen's assistants, while the other two coaching staff positions have yet to be decided.

Olsen figured to be an assistant in 2011 after Payne seemingly ruled out the possibility of him maintaining his post as head coach in the aftermath of United's historically bad season.

"I knew all along he was bluffing," Olsen deadpanned. "I was flattered and honored. I was surprised. I was fully prepared to go back into an assistant coach role and continue learning the trade. That's not what I wanted. I was always hopeful."

Payne admitted to interviewing "at least half a dozen candidates" during the hiring process. He refused to acknowledge whether he offered the job to anybody else before ultimately hiring Olsen, though he was steadfast that finances had nothing to do with the decision.

"Ben asked me early in the process to keep an open mind despite my earlier posture," Payne said.

"As we spent more and more time talking with Ben about how we would try to improve our team, what we thought we needed to add to our team positionally and in terms of character, it gradually became more and more apparent to each of us that Ben had already grown substantially as a coach in the short time at the helm of our team."

Olsen takes charge of a team that struggled in just about every aspect of the game while battling a never-ending injury bug that claimed numerous would-be starters.

The addition of Dax McCarty should provide a boost to the midfield at RFK Stadium, a spot where Olsen used to roam during the D.C. glory days.

Kasper, who divulged that D.C. only spoke to Portland and not Dallas about acquiring McCarty, said that Olsen had a hand in the decision to bring in the industrious midfielder.

Between McCarty, reigning Rookie of the Year Andy Najar and a fit Chris Pontius, a few appealing pieces are in place, though the obvious lack of a potent striker and defensive depth is something the team will look to address in the coming months.

"We all believe we have the nucleus of a very good team," Payne said. "With some additions, we think we have the pieces in place to become a good team and challenge for a playoff spot."

Added Olsen: "I don't think that playoffs are out of the question next year. It's a realisitc goal and something that can be achieved. We have a way of playing here at D.C. United – maybe not as of late – that I want to get back to."

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27 Responses to Olsen introduced as D.C. United head coach

  1. fromage says:

    *sigh*

  2. ciscokid says:

    Listen to what I say not what I mean

  3. ciscokid says:

    I mean listen to what I mean, not what I say.

    Or don’t listen to me cuz I have no clue.

    B.O may turn out to be a good coach but ya gotta feel sorry for DCU fans right about now

  4. A says:

    Well last place again, their reign of the early MLS days is good for nothing. Too many teams are present and better than the product United is putting out.

  5. Smith says:

    I can’t begin to express how much I enjoy the DC Follies.

    Next up – all the players get Marco Etcheverrry retro mullets.

  6. Lucy says:

    I guess they got turned down by their first choice….again.

  7. dave says:

    It is nice to see that the rerun of former college/university coaches is not done. While a bit on the young side Olsen knows more about the game as a player than many of the coaches present in the league. I would hope that Eddie Lewis would get a stint as an assistant coach somewhere in the league soon. Olsen should get on the phone and see if Eddie Johnson or Freddy Adu would go back home. Adu should definitely go back to D.C. Other Americans abroad that are not getting enough playing time should be inquired about as well.

  8. Martek says:

    They probably got turned down by Choices 1-7 to get to Olsen.

  9. Martek says:

    I think Payne needs to draw the line here. Either Olsen grows the Captain Caveman beard back by Memorial Day or he gets Onalfoed.

  10. Scott A says:

    I feel bad for any supporter with a clueless or uncaring organization. I might have a bit more sympathy for DCU fans, though, if I didn’t have to listen to them about how great they were and how their support wasn’t tied to their success (ha) for a decade.

  11. George Costanza says:

    I’m happy he was given the responsibility of head coach. I am anxious to see how the team performs under him. Just happy to see an FC Delco product staying involved.

  12. bob says:

    Its so easy a caveman can do it!

  13. Jtd says:

    “Onalfoed”… nice!

  14. irishapple21 says:

    I’m excited that this means the Red Bulls are going to get easy points vs. DC again next season. Looks like the Atlantic Cup is staying put. HA HA!

  15. KevDC says:

    You’ve got about 15 years of points to make up, MetroCow. Fortunately, you’ll be able to stack those points in your trophy case…seeing as it’s still empty.

    Vamos United! Vamos Benny!

  16. DC Josh says:

    With the McCarty move under their belt, United need to continue to improve towards March 2011. The midfield is set. Let’s concentrate on a forward and some defense. Benny will have the team playing like a unit. There is only room to improve next year right?

  17. jrnail23 says:

    Who’s that clean shaven guy in the photo? As a DC supporter, I swear I’ve never seen him before!

  18. Eurosnob says:

    Good MLS teams and their fans focus on winning the MLS cup. Other teams never tasted true success and their fans get excited about much lesser trophies.

  19. Scott A says:

    It is indeed empty, but this is no longer the 90s, things are quite different, and you know it. You just wait.
    And at least the trophy case will still be in the same location in 10 years :)

  20. Scott A says:

    NY fans have been there through thick (nonexistent to this point) and thin. Not like we’ve directly controlled the transfers and coaching decisions. DC’s attendance was halved as soon as they stopped making the playoffs. I’ll take the previous facts as a compliment.

  21. KevDC says:

    Facts: DC United won the Supporters Shield in 2007 (our 4th) and averaged 20,967 in our crap stadium. We’ve had three increasingly bad seasons since then culminating in 2010 when we won only 6 games. Attendance has dropped, of course. We averaged just 14,532, but our attendance was not “halved.”

    Please note the Red Bulls/MetroStars have not averaged more than 20,967 since 1996…even with a vastly larger market, and now a shiny new stadium and internationally famous DPs.

    And you once again flamed out in the first round of the playoffs.

    I suspect that EVERYTHING about your trophy case will be the same in ten years, not just its location. LOL!

  22. Scott A says:

    Haha it’s always the past with DC fans. I love it. So you’re saying that 2 years of mediocrity can bring your attendance down 75% or so and NY can endure 15 years of no trophies and be on the rise? Sounds like a testament to the fanbase to me.

    Regardless, good luck next year. We’ll see how it all pans out.

  23. KevDC says:

    You weren’t a math major, were you?

    Attendance is down a little less than 29% (not 75%) in three years (not two).

    Yeah, we will certainly see how it pans out. Good luck to you, too. (Honestly, it’s more fun to hate RBNY when you don’t suck.)

  24. Scott A says:

    The point was admittedly lessened by my quick (read incorrect) math.
    Regardless, our attendance after a much worse front office for most of the time and a much much worse team for 95% of the time is significantly higher than yours when you’ve had a few iffy years. Once we start winning, you’ll have even less to hang your hat on. Oh, and said hat rack is in Baltimore, St. Louis or somewhere else because your metro area doesn’t want you.

    Oh, and good luck next year. You guys really do deserve a stadium haha

  25. inkedAG says:

    Nice one!!

  26. inkedAG says:

    DC fans need to realize it’s not 1997 anymore.

  27. DE says:

    What does that even mean?! Considering that DCU won the MLS Cup in 1999 and 2004, was runner up in 1998; won the Supporters Shield as recently as 2007 (also in 1999 and 2006); and the U.S. Open Cup in 2008, why is 1997 a relevant year?

    Yeah, we have sucked over the past three seasons and our FO is a bunch of dolts. But to say “this isn’t the 90s anymore” or “it’s not 1997 anymore” is just idiotic. DCU has had decent success in this decade and I’m hopeful that this offseason’s moves are going to get us back on the right track.