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Olsen Weighs Retirement

D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen, the heart and soul of the club who has endured numerous ankle operations and medical setbacks during a standout career spanning 11 years, is mulling retirement, the Insider has learned. A decision is expected within a week.

United officials declined comment and said Olsen, 32, would not discuss the issue.

Last winter, after missing all but one game of the 2008 season and undergoing three additional surgeries, Olsen contemplated retiring. But he held up well in preseason workouts and went on to make 20 league appearances and 18 starts playing primarily in defensive midfield in a 3-5-2 formation.

Olsen's 221 regular season games played and 200 starts are second in club history behind Jaime Moreno. He is seventh in goals (29) and third in assists (49).

Whether or not he calls it quits next week, Olsen has a bright future in the sport. He has been active in players' union causes and seems to have the personality, leadership qualities and tactical understanding to become an effective coach in some capacity.

By Steve Goff  |  November 19, 2009; 7:33 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Can't say a retirement would be unexpected, I just hope it will be on his terms and not because of the club.

He has always been a great symbol of DC United, on and off the pitch.

Of the many memories of Ben's play, his goal against the Revs this year, where he beat Wells Thompson for a header and a tying goal in stoppage time, is my favorite.

Posted by: delantero | November 19, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

First, he'll be missed. He's an asset--a tremendous one, even with no wheels.

Second, if we exposed him in the expansion draft, Nowak would take him. Nowak would take him b/c he's a Philly boy, he knows what an inspiration he is in practice and in the locker room, what a coach he'd be on the field and b/c only 2-3 expansion picks pan out anyway (the rest get cut or don't sign with MLS and are lost to the team that picked them). It would be an excellent gamble for Nowak. And it would mean Olsen would end his career someplace other than DCU--which would be a real shame.

Posted by: JoeW1 | November 19, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Olsen for coach!

A great player and will be missed from the field, should he decide to retire.

Posted by: douglasquaid | November 19, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

A vivid memory for me as well delantero. When I read people bad mouthing him I think of that and his hat trick. Recent memories of him compared to what some of you long time fans may have, but I have no shame in admitting that Benny was a major selling point for me coming to the DC area and getting stoked on United, and MLS in general. He's the kind of player that every club dreams of having in their locker room.

He and my daughter share a birthday, don't know if that matters much on any level, but it's something I don't think I'll ever forget.
Whatever the decision is, I hope to see him contributing to DC United far into the future in some capacity.

Posted by: DadRyan | November 19, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

A true legend for the club - it's a shame that ankle injuries cut short a promising career abroad, spot in the national team, and possibly longer DCU career after a tremendous season in 2007.

Shirt 14 should be retired.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | November 19, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget him having his way on the right flank against England in a national team friendly many years ago.

Posted by: billq1 | November 19, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I really hope if he does decide to retire then he stays in the DCU organization as a coach. I can see him one day giving a speech before a really important game kind of like this:

Posted by: rademaar | November 19, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

It is a privilege to watch Ben Olsen play. I've seen many more gifted players but good or bad Ben always gives his all, never disappoints. On and off the field he has been one of the best. A rare career. I hope he plays on. DC needs him.

Posted by: oz4dcu | November 19, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Olsen retire?

Someone must have naked pictures of him or something.

Posted by: Reignking | November 19, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

If Moreno, Simms, and Quaranta also decide to retire then it's ESPN doing the extortion.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 19, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

DC will always have a soft spot in its heat for Olsen, whether he plays again or not. My favorite Olsen moment was the standing ovation he recieved for his sole appearance in 08. I remember the excitement that spread built up throughout the stadium as he warmed up for the first time all season. Nobody knew if we would ever see Olsen play that season. The applause that ensued number 14 on the 3rd officials board was heartwarming. I also loved the "heart of a lion" banner from that match. Vamos United!

Posted by: invncbl | November 19, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

As a freshman in high school, our varsity team played Middletown and I remember the quote: "watch out for Olsen, he's an a**hole". Obviously, he torched our team single handedly with not much support from his team.
He was miles ahead of players in this area at that time. It turns out he was so much more intense, it was understood by some as being a dirty player.
It would be hard to see him working any where else but DC in the near future. And a shame, should it happen.

Posted by: inzzo79 | November 19, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

rademaar: A speech more like this one comes to my mind --

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | November 19, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, Henry V, makes me just want to go out and win the world cup...

Posted by: rademaar | November 19, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Add me to the list of people who love what Olsen has done over the years for DCU and for his team spirit and feisty attitude. His # should definitely be retired.

That said, while he fought hard all season, he looked much slower and off-kilter than in the past. He was getting beat quite a bit by average players, and seemed to be resorting to intentional bear-hug, jersey-pull fouls to make up for his lack of speed. He also seemed to give the ball up way more so than in the past.

If he plays another year it's not going to kill the team, but I think it's probably better for the team in the long run to have him retire, clear that roster spot and salary, and hire him as an assistant coach.

Posted by: edgeonyou | November 19, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jake77 | November 19, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Ben has made no secret of the fact that he needs to evaluate this possibility in the off-season. He talked about it at the Screaming Eagles Meet the Team.

But somehow, seeing that in the Washington Post still comes as a shock. A sad time in one respect, but a crossroads leading to the next stage in his career. He will face it with the pluck and determination that have made him the heart and soul of the team for so many years.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | November 19, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

When I read people bad mouthing him I think of that and his hat trick.

Posted by: DadRyan | November 19, 2009 7:59 PM

Who in their right mind bad mouths Ben Olsen?

Add me the list of those who will be sorry to see him go and also to the list that hopes to see him with DCU in some capacity after his playing days come to an end.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | November 19, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Whatever Ben Olsen wants to do I am fine with. If he wants to play another year I am fine with it, cap hit and all. If he wants to retire I will respect his decision and be sad to see his playing days over. He's earned the right to make whatever decision he wants.

Posted by: QuietSide | November 19, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

I would think player/assistant coach. would make a lot of sense, as I have mentioned previously. Gives us a little extra depth, a vocal warrior who has the ability to come on the field if his shouting doesn;t scare the young ones enough.

One things for sure, if I am left without Olsen and the entire front office intact next season, I fear we are in trouble.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | November 19, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

If Olsen can no longer play competitive professional soccer, he should at least be able to play in MLS...

Posted by: fischy | November 19, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh snap, fischy went so faaaarrr left he's a full on eurosnob now...
Yo poopy I talk a lotta $h!t but I'm no snitch on these Benny haters they know who they are. They'll come out and claim it before lunch tomorrow, you'll see. Just like a Cheatin' @$$ Henry...

Posted by: DadRyan | November 19, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

So much to talk about lately...

-Crazy WCQ's and Ireland getting robbed, looking to play a rematch. What are the chances this actually happens? (as I think something should happen)

-Protecting DC's players for expansion draft. Peter Nowak is a very smart man...must be very careful for expansion draft.

-Finding a suitable coach (paging Bruce Arena after Sunday's game)

-The USMNT clearly having some chemistry troubles.

Posted by: redskinsux | November 19, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse


Any updates on contract talks with DCU players?

Posted by: redskinsux | November 20, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

If Benny hangs 'em up then the last of the great Harrisburgers would have ended a great career for the black-and-red (a certain Mr. Gros was the other). My favorite of the Benny moments was that full volley hit against the Pink Cows in a 4-1 trouncing. I really loved how he was always up for the NY, NE, Chi-town and LA games. Dude is a DC legend and it's a shame what the injuries did to his career.

He did well in his limited/managed role last year, but he did not have the wheels and the league seemed to have gotten faster in his case. I have been amoung those who have always wanted his stay but at a pay cut - not so sure that classifies as "a hater" but then again this is the internets and people will say just about anything. Got love for my fellow Harrisburger and for my club and will never apologize for that and never cared how anyone else classifies it either.

I love our heroes and legends, the problem is, in sports - a what have you done for me lately business - age and the other things start to work against you the longer you stay around, especially for guys who have had injury plagued careers. That last stance, last hurrah, becomes hard on the legend and harder on the fans - even in the case of one of the greats like MJ. It's a tough one. Dent said it best - "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain" a quote that I love and found most relevant to sports heros (and one that I use metephorically here of course, sad that I feel I have to clarify that)...

...Oh well I echo the sentiments of the rest, I hope he stays on with the club if he decides to hang 'em up. Either way we love you Benny and you've done us proud. My six-feet of separation Benny style - I paired up at striker with his brother on an indoor team a few years back (when my right ACL was the one I was born with). Dude was good, the oppoent was bad. It was a tasty feast indeed.

Posted by: Kosh2 | November 20, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I am filled with sympathy for Ireland's team and its fans, but I think Trappatoni is correct in thinking there's no way a replay could be ordered. Sure, France doesn't deserve to be in -- and Ireland deserves to have its shot at an additional 15 mins of OT and PKs. However, you can't order a replay under these circumstances -- unless FIFA is also prepared to announce some sort or in-game replay review to safeguard against a recurrence. Otherwise, you are opening Pandora's Box.

Where do you draw the line in the future? The missed foul in the box by a defender? What about a handball by a defender, like the one that robbed the USA of a goal against Germany in the Cup? Is the bright line to be replays only for goals wrongly allowed, and not for missed fouls that might have led to goals? If so, what about the next missed offside call? What if the ref missed interference with the goalie, or didn't see the attacker shoving the defender out of the way to get on to a cross? Is a handball really any worse? Do we limit the match replays to Cup qualifiers, but not games in the Cup finals? Do we call it a one-off affair because it involved a playoff? What about the blown calls that will come in the replay match?

I think it would be really cool if FIFA did order a replay, but as a lawyer I'm keenly aware of the pitfalls that lie ahead if FIFA walks even a little bit down that road.

Posted by: fischy | November 20, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse


I agree completely. It sucks that Ireland could come so close to pulling off a big upset to get into the World Cup, but there are problems with the calls for a replay. First and foremost, there is absolutely no difference between a handball in the buildup to a goal, a player scoring while offside, or a player saving a goal via handball or shoving someone or any other means. If you replay this game, you're obliged to replay any other 1 goal game in which a missed call was directly involved with the outcome.

To bring it closer to home, I have brought up the handball call against Wallace in DC's season opener at least 20 times this year. It's an outrageous call that leaves me entirely unable to trust Marrufo as a referee in the least. He either lacks the quality of eyesight to differentiate body parts from 20 yards (which disqualifies him from officiating), or he is far too easily influenced by the protests of individual players (which would again rule him out as a referee). Those lost 2 points are the difference between us and a playoff spot. However, demanding a replay never crossed my mind, because replaying games over referee decisions is not and should never be part of the game. Sometimes in soccer, in other sports, and in life, something that sucks happens and there's nothing you can do about it. You move on and try to do well enough at your future endeavors to overcome that injustice. You don't throw a temper tantrum and demand a do over. It's childish, and for a governing body full of what I presume are grown-ups (the FAI, in this instance), it's pathetic.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 20, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Now, on to the subject I intended to comment on before being sidetracked, which is Ben Olsen:

Ben Olsen, in my mind, is welcome to stay with DC United for as long as he wants in whatever capacity he wants. I realize Moreno and Etcheverry (and, realistically, a few others like Pope, Nelsen, and possibly Harkes) have been better players in a DC shirt, but Olsen remains my all time favorite player. If he wants to come back, I'm sure he'll work harder than anyone towards making sure it's a good season. If not, he should be granted an instantaneous spot in the Hall of Tradition (no disrespect to Agoos and Diaz Arce, but I'm still of the opinion that there are only 3 true heroes in DCU history, and those guys are Etcheverry, Moreno, and Olsen).

I have 4 special Olsen memories. The long-range golazo against NY in 2007 and his entrance into the game against LA last year have been mentioned. The other 2 I'd throw in are seeing him take the field in the World Cup against Ghana and his coming on as a sub after the first long injury layoff from the injury he got while on loan at Nottingham Forest.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 20, 2009 2:30 AM | Report abuse

Ben will certainly be missed, he's been a favorite of mine since Day 1, and yeah I would love it if he stayed on with DCU.

Posted by: beltwayrob | November 20, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Benny Olsen, class act. Agree with sentiments above, retire #14.

Posted by: ddd001 | November 20, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I hate to say this, but if he is able to walk and feel better about his physical condition I hope he retires. No game is worth living the rest of your life like a quasi-handicap. Benny if you read this I wish you the best and in my mind you were the greatest DC United player in history. It is a shame that you had the injuries to your ankle. I wish you the best of luck.

Posted by: no_recess | November 20, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Whenever his playing career ends -- bon voyage, Ben.

One can only speculate how spectacular his career might have been without that broken ankle at Nottingham Forest in 2001. He went to England as one of the brightest prospects among USA players. He returned a step slower, no longer able to routinely and continually embarrass defenders. But his brain, guts, grit and still-excellent talent served him -- and his fans -- well.

It now seems that Ben will end his career with the same class with which he played. Let's hope the DCU honchos show the same.

Posted by: runningcloud | November 20, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

(re. Ireland)

fischy - here, here!!

Chest - Point well stated, but "childish" and "pathetic"? It's a long 4 year wait and an even painfully longer 2 year qualification process. So to have come so close and be ousted in such a manner would pain anyone. This game of ours is an emotional one, and I fully understand how high emotions are riding on this one. It's the World Cup for Pete's sake! While a replay is not going to happen for all of the obvious and well satated reaons put foreward by fischy, I can see how classifying the raw emotion and outbursts of the so recently wronged party here as "childish" and "pathetic" can come off as dismissive, insulting and downright condescending to the FAI, Ireland and her fans.

Posted by: Kosh2 | November 20, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Quite stunning how healthy Olsen was this year.

Posted by: Reignking | November 20, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Benny has been a inspiration to the club and a great mentor for some of the younger players. If he feels like he can't play at the level to which he is accustomed, then I would guess he would retire! After all, those ankles have to last him the rest of his life and further injuries could dramatically affect his after-soccer life.
I hope that DCU finds a place for him that utilizes his spirit, drive and competitivness. Our team definitely needs that.

Posted by: patrick18 | November 20, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes in soccer, in other sports, and in life, something that sucks happens and there's nothing you can do about it. You move on and try to do well enough at your future endeavors to overcome that injustice.

Well put. Isn't it amazing how many fail to grasp this even after decades of experience as Earthlings?

Posted by: OWNTF | November 20, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Note to Ben Olsen:

Search your soul. If in your heart you feel you can help this team, then you must re-sign (not resign, i almost wrote that), and shelve this notion of retirement.

My thinking:

1) You have a new family. Unless you got a law degree somewhere along the line, sock a way another year kicking a soccer ball, for the sake of their future.

2) You got the rest of your life to completely heal and relax. At your age, once you are done, you are done.

3) Based on your approach to the game, specifically your intense, angry, effective, combative, and enjoyable manner, it is without a doubt your transition to the sidelines will be a difficult one. So play.Put it off another year. Life is short. And by the way, I have it on good authority from one of DCU staff that you are indeed the classiest, nicest guy on the team. Another reason for you to stay. "character" role models are essential. I wish you played for the redskins.

4) From a pure selfish standpoint, your presence on the field gets me fired up even more to cheer on the squad. You are the face of the team. you motivate and inspire. You set the tone. You are the Mike Singletary of DCU.

so stay. easy choice. so put down the corona and start running.

Posted by: QUASICRITIC | November 20, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

To me, Benny's best showing this year was in his very last appearance. If Benny agrees, it makes the retirement decision even harder, because he can convince himself that he was getting better, not worse, and next season could be better still. On the other hand, why not go out on top, i.e., after showing that you can reprise your better days, even just once?
He can do many things with DCU after retirement, and I think Mayor Fenty should give him a platform to extoll the virtues of DC. He loves this town and knows it well.

Posted by: b18bolo | November 20, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse


Sometimes if you really love a player, and are pulling for them 110%, what you really want for them is to know when it's time.

Not saying I think it is his time, that's for him to "mull," but if you really love the player, you care about the manner in which he goes out.

Posted by: OWNTF | November 20, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

FRANKFURT -- German prosecutors investigating match-fixing in soccer said Friday that 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland have been arrested and about 200 games in Europe affected in what a UEFA representative called the biggest match-fixing scandal in Europe.

Police said more than 50 raids have been conducted in Switzerland, Germany and Britain, and that documents, cash and valuables have been seized.
Among the games believed to have been manipulated are three Champions League games and 12 Europa League games, all this year. Prosecutors didn't specify whether those were qualifying games or group-round matches.

Posted by: Reignking | November 20, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Thierry Henry has conceded that Republic of Ireland "definitely deserve" to qualify for the World Cup finals and has backed calls for a replay, even though FIFA have already ruled out such a scenario.

Posted by: Reignking | November 20, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, "Haters", they aren't saying anything because I already pulled their card last night.

Posted by: DadRyan | November 20, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I respect Ben as a player, and would love to see him on the field for years to come, but after everything his ankles have been through, it's time for him to walk away before something else happens that makes someday chasing little ones around alot harder.

Best of Luck Ben, I've enjoyed watching you play.

Posted by: ey22314 | November 20, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

If one more year will do further damage to his ankles, then Ben should retire now. Save the ankles for chasing Ruby and her future siblings around the house.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 20, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Just noticed that ey22314 wrote the same thing. So that's 2 votes for chasing kids over playing more.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 20, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Not actually a DCU fan, but I think Ben Olsen plays/ed the game like it should be played. He wasn't the most technically gifted, but he plays/ed with heart. True heart. He ran balls down, got stuck in, and didn't give up.

There are a couple of USMNT players that should take notice of Ben and the way he played. Erm, Jozy.

Posted by: TwinCity | November 20, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'll miss Ben Olsen's shirt-pulling, elbowing, and whining to the ref. The league needs players like him.

Posted by: khan1 | November 20, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse


Khaaaannnn! Seriously you really need to take another look at this league if you think that Ben Olsen was not a great asset to the league. Who would you rather have a diving Cienfuegos, a flopping Ruiz, or even better Amado (don't call me Armando)Gueverra? You sir are a fool.

Posted by: no_recess | November 20, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Heart and Soul! Oh Benny please don't leave....Goff will have no one to gush over....and all the fair weather fans will have no one to love....

Posted by: RicoSuave4 | November 20, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I think they're waiting to make a decision on Onalfo or Richie Williams until they see what Ben is going to do. He'll either be on the field or with the team as a coach next season.

Posted by: AsstGM | November 20, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Nowak would take him b/c he's a Philly boy...

Posted by: JoeW1 | November 19, 2009 7:41 PM

Olsen grew up near Harrisburg, about 100 miles from Philadelphia. Thus, he is no more a Philly boy than is Quaranta.

Posted by: universityandpark | November 20, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of which, I've always wondered where on the map will be the transition zone between where United fans dominate and where Union fans will be in the majority (or between the Freedom and the Independence, for an even more redundant pair of team names). Some years ago I heard a story on NPR about someone who claimed to have determined that a certain town in Connecticut was a de facto DMZ between Yankees and Red Sox fans.

Posted by: universityandpark | November 20, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I am a big Ben Olsen fan, but he should have retired two seasons ago. He has been a liability the last couple of seasons.

Posted by: alan19 | November 20, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

If he retires, i can hire him for my beer league team.

Posted by: fedster | November 20, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Ben was definitely NOT a liability this season. Last season he didn't play, so that's a silly statement to make in the first place.

I'd take Benny at CDM/Holding-Mid over just about anyone else at the same position in the league, because he sees the field better, and links the defense to the attack better.

Posted by: alecw81 | November 20, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Khaaaannnn! Seriously you really need to take another look at this league if you think that Ben Olsen was not a great asset to the league. Who would you rather have a diving Cienfuegos, a flopping Ruiz, or even better Amado (don't call me Armando)Gueverra? You sir are a fool.

Posted by: no_recess | November 20, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Ben Olsen WAS a skilled player, who became a Danny Ainge-type after his injuries. A whiner. A complainer. An elbower. A shirt-puller.

People follow THIS and other leagues so as to watch the skillful players. People watched the NBA to see Michael Jordan, not Danny Ainge. People watch MLB to see Pujols hit, not "grinders" like David Eckstein. People watch the NFL to see Adrian Peterson, not the backup guard. And people watch DCU to see the greatness of Etcheverry, not the dissent and whining of a lesser player like Olsen.

Posted by: khan1 | November 23, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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