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Posted at 2:25 PM ET, 11/29/2010

News & notes from D.C. United news conference introducing Ben Olsen as the head coach

By Steve Goff

Ben Olsen was officially introduced as D.C. United's seventh head coach this morning at RFK Stadium. I will put together a full story later, but for now, here are a few notable items and quotes:

*Contract: As an assistant coach, Olsen had a three-year guaranteed deal. The remaining two years have been tossed aside and he was given a new three-year guaranteed contract that also includes options for additional seasons. His salary was not revealed.

*Coaching staff: Olsen will have three assistants; he will choose all of them. His first decision: Chad Ashton will return to the staff after serving as the technical director for a year. It's unclear whether the technical role will be filled by a new hire or other personnel will inherit Ashton's responsibilities (scouting, youth academy). Mark Simpson will not return as goalkeeping coach. Simpson told me this morning that he sensed it was time to move on and that he is pursuing jobs in college soccer. Kris Kelderman is under contract for another year as an assistant, but he might end up in a different capacity with the club, club president Kevin Payne said. The top candidate to replace Simpson is Tim Mulqueen, who works with the U.S. youth national teams. "I know Tim. I know he's a very good coach," Olsen said. "That is all going to play out in the next week or two whether we move forward with any of that stuff or if he's interested."

*Olsen initiated the discussion about acquiring midfielder Dax McCarty last week. "Ben's the one who said, 'I want Dax McCarty,' " Payne said. "We all agreed, but Ben brought him up first."

For much more.....

*The fact that United has to pay former coach Curt Onalfo for two additional years, perhaps limiting the club's financial flexibility in hiring a coach, did not impact the process, Payne said: "That had nothing to do with this decision at all. This decision came down to a very strong belief that Ben shared our beliefs about the club, understood intimately the culture of D.C. United, helped create the culture of D.C. United, understood our relationship with our fans, and frankly understood the responsibility that D.C. United has to be successful by playing in a certain way."

*Olsen, on building a roster: "We need production. We didn't score enough goals. We need some clinical, classy finishers. We need veteran defensive players. We need leaders in the back. We feel we have a good base, but we have a long way to go. I don't think the playoffs are out of the question next year. It's something that can be achieved. In this league it's unique in the sense that you can change in a couple of months. I want to make the playoffs, but I want to make the playoffs in the right way. We have a way of playing here at D.C. United, maybe not as of late, but certainly over the span of this club that I want to get back to -- the commitment, the energy, the passion all need to come back into this club. On top of that, we need to play with a little flair. We need to entertain people who come and pay their money to see us. They've seen that throughout the years, and we've lost that a little bit. How we get that back is one of our main jobs. This process doesn't happen overnight, although it's a unique league and you can change very quickly. It's still going to take time."

*Olsen, on the job ahead: "I am very very confident at this point that I can lead this team. The last six months have been a blessing for me. In the coaching world, rarely do you get a chance to learn on the job. Not only did I learn on the job, I learned on the job in very, very tough circumstances. It made me grow very quickly as a coach and made me face some difficult things. Am I still a young coach? Are there still things I need to learn? Of course."

*Payne, on explaining why he said for months that Olsen wouldn't be considered: "It would have been a mistake to have that speculation out there. Ben had never been a head coach and no one knew how he was going to do. The intention was to protect Ben and protect the club for the future and forestall any controversy. It wasn't a cynical move in the sense that I did it knowing that we were going to hire Ben. There's no other agenda here. When I said it, I meant it. But I did tell Ben we would keep an open mind. A lot of the really critical qualities that we thought were necessary, Ben had in abundance."

*Payne, on selecting Olsen: "As we spent more and more time talking with Ben about how we would try to improve our team, what the challenges were, what was lacking, what we needed to add positionally and in terms of character, it gradually became more and more apparent to each of us that Ben had already grown very substantially as a coach in his short term at the helm of our team."

*Payne, on being patient with Olsen: "The tradition of our club has been that coaches have had the opportunity to succeed. I'm not going to talk about what happened this year [when Onalfo was dismissed after eight months]. We absolutely expect Ben to be given the time necessary to turn this team around."

*Payne declined to say whether he offered the job to anyone else before turning to Olsen. Among the names that have floated around: Lucien Favre, Dave Sarachan, Denis Hamlett and Caleb Porter.

*Olsen opened his formal comments by apologizing to his wife "for future mood swings and all the things I am going to do that she is not going to appreciate that head coaches do to their family."

By Steve Goff  | November 29, 2010; 2:25 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  | Tags:  D.C. United  
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Let's go back to our roots -- bring in more UVa players!

Posted by: Reignking | November 29, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Vamos United, Vamos Benny Olsen!

Posted by: Golden_Child | November 29, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I voted a qualified "no" in the previous poll just because I think Ben can stand to learn more about the business of coaching before he's thrown to the dogs. I have all the confidence in the world that Ben will be a good coach. I just hope it happens in the next year or two. Congrats, Benny. I'm in your army.

Posted by: DrBeaker | November 29, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm a huge fan of Ben Olsen. I just think this move throws him to the wolves. We're asking an extremely inexperienced coach to take one of the league's worst rosters and be competitive with it. Are any of us really prepared to break out the "Fire Olsen" posters next summer when we're 0-13-2 or whatever?

Posted by: jva1 | November 29, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

goal barcelona Xabi 10 minutes

Posted by: koolcaio | November 29, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

In addition to saying Ben was not ready yet, KP has always also said that he saw him as a future DCU head coach. I have no problem with KP accelerating his timeframe as a result of watching Ben perform. The Dax McCarty deal is evidence of a shrewd operator who sees an opportunity and nails it. Great stuff. I don't see what Jason Kreis has that Benny doesn't, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming season about three times as much as I was a week ago.

Posted by: dccal | November 29, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

goal barcelona 17:45 Pedro

Posted by: koolcaio | November 29, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

There will be no Fire Olsen signs. They will all be fire Payne and fire Kasper

Posted by: TenoriosLaptop | November 29, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

it will be nice to get a fresh set of eyes on the keepers. Perkins and Hamid are too talented to be making the mistakes they made last season.

Posted by: VTUnited | November 29, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

@dccal, I totally agree about Ben v Kreis, but Kreis has Lagerway, who has proven himself to be the superior of our GM brain trust.

Posted by: Logan_Circle | November 29, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I can't say I'm surprised Olsen wanted to bring in McCarty that strongly. If you had to go through MLS and pick the most Olsen-esque central midfielder in the league, McCarty would have to be right near the top of the list. It also underlines the ideas of playing with flair and also having the intensity there. McCarty's not a brilliant entertainer, but he does everything that you need to aid and abet that kind of player. Guys like Boskovic can use McCarty as their right-hand man, basically, since you know you can trust him to turn up in the right spots, cover tons of ground, and avoid stupid turnovers.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 29, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Chest, does Branko move to the flank? If so, whither Q, Najar and Pontius? If BB stays central, is 3-5-2 an option with the defenders we have, and does it fit Olsen's style as you understand it? What happens then to Simms?

Posted by: OWNTF | November 29, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Viva Olsen's Army!

Posted by: DadRyan | November 29, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's best Wishes to Benny. I KNOW he will bring back some of the spirit, passion and intensity that we have been missing for several years. I think he will be the "spark" we have been waiting for!! 2011 looking better all the time.

Posted by: patrick18 | November 29, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm going waaaaay out on a limb - DCU will make the playoffs in 2011! Benny's passion & fire will carry the season.

Posted by: soccerman | November 29, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"I want to make the playoffs in the right way."

as in by winning? because i'm not sure any team has ever made the playoffs the wrong way.

this whole thing has a fairy tale quality to it, no? where KP had to go searching the world for his prince only to realize the answer was right under his nose the whole time.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | November 29, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't know who the schmuck is that posted about the Barca Real game, but that is absolutely outrageous conduct for those of us who are trying to avoid knowing anything about the game and are consciously avoiding anything that would reveal it before I can see the recording tonight. I confess it did not occur to me that an article about Beninho would have that in the comments.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | November 29, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

this whole thing has a fairy tale quality to it, no?
Posted by: dimesmakedollars

Hopefully without KP and a chorus of cute forest creatures breaking into doe-eyed song.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 29, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

How about a chorus of "optimistic voices"?

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light

Posted by: OWNTF | November 29, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I think Benny has a good eye for players, I'm excited about the upcoming draft.

Posted by: UnitedDemon1 | November 29, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

DCUsince96, you should know better than coming on a soccer blog, sports website, or the internet period for that matter if you're trying to avoid spoilers. I personally try to refrain unless there is some sort of match day thread, but if you want a cone of silence you gotta at least put the darn thing on... :)

Posted by: DadRyan | November 29, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Re: Barca v Real Madrid

Who cares?

It's La Liga.

Are any of you from Barcelona or Madrid?

Live there for several years and become attached to the club by attending nearly every match?

Not likely.

You're just a punk-a$$ Eurosnob in a purple Cristiano Ronaldo jersey.

Posted by: alecw81 | November 29, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I'd settle for less flair and more wins.

Posted by: delantero | November 29, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

alecw81 does one have to live in Spain to appreciate the beautiful game? I watched the Real Madrid-Barcelona game not because I'm a "punk-a$$ Eurosnob" but because I appreciate the artistry of soccer played at the highest level. I'm a DCU fan since the day the team was formed and get frustrated by all the American fans who wont give the MLS the time of day. But to ridicule anyone who dares mention La Liga is really uncalled for. A real fan of the game appreciates the beautiful game when played with artistry regardless of what team is on the pitch. If you can't appreciate Real Madrid then I pity you and you only disrespect of The Game.

Posted by: nyjer1 | November 29, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm in Ben's Army as well. What continues to puzzle me is what happened under Onalfo's watch that got him fired in the middle of his first season -- especially given Payne's statements today about giving coaches time. Something truly horrible, beyond the awful play on the field, must have happened to get Onalfo sacked.

Posted by: griffin1108 | November 29, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

@DadRyan: agree on the soccer scores, but please don't post spoilers of the Wikileaks documents because I want to read all 250,000 of them myself.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 29, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse


I'm no Chest, but if I had to guess, I'm expecting that Branko does move into a role more like what he has with Montenegro—on the flank but pinching in with some regularity. (At least that's what it's looked like from the little I've seen.)

I can't imagine a 3-5-2 without drastic improvements in the back. I could definitely see some sort of 4-5-1. I mean, as long as we don't even have ONE legitimate threat up front, there's not much point wasting TWO slots on guys who can't score. But whether the 1 is Hernandez, Q, Pontius or the next South American messiah remains to be seen.

Or, of course, I could be totally wrong.

And obviously, that only holds until three of Simms/Dax/Pontius/Branko pull hamstrings or fly to Germany for hernia surgery.

Posted by: benonthehill | November 29, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

1. Totally agree with the comments about Dax McCarty as the closest thing to Ben Olsen out there. Oh, not the same--I can't imagine Ben having the following out with his coach that McCarty had. But it shows more than an eye for talent, it shows a man with a plan, a vision for the team. The comments about the "clinical finisher" may seem obvious but they sound again, like a man with a plan and someone who has a realistic but hard appraisal of the talent at hand. Namely that even in form, we can't count on Hernandez, Quaranta, Najar and Pontius to be double-digit goal scorers. Fine creators yes. Goal scorers in single digits yes. Great support players with posession yes. But not scoring enough goals for us to improve a lot.

2. Maybe it's a 3-5-2. I think it might be a 4-2-3-1. That's going to be driven by who our "clinical finisher" is. It's also that Boskovic is a decent enough 2-way player that I don't think we need to play a 3-5-2 (with him playing the Christian Gomez role).

If we were to get, say, an Angel. I'd see a 4-2-3-1. You put Simms and McCarty as your central destroyers and distributors. You have 3 from this combination in midfield: Najar, Quaranta, Boskovic, Hernandez and Pontius. You have your clinicial finisher up to to hold, distribute to overlapping runners. and then finish chances in the box.

PS: I've been to Barcelona three times. Saw the World Cup in Spain in 1982 (and no, not all my trips to Barcelona were during that WC). I am not Eurosnob, Cristiano Ronaldo is a punk and I own nothing in purple. After DCU, Barca is my second team (but it's a distant second).

Posted by: JoeW1 | November 29, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

JoeW1 I like your 4-2-3-1, but it does put a lot of defensive pressure on the guys in the 3 hole.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | November 29, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Couple of notes....

Skippy - If you're in Benny's army - you're on KP.

Alec - stop drawing beers at kids and liking La Liga supermatch is not being a Eurosnob...

UnitedDemon1 - Benny doesn't pay attention sufficiently at college games to be responsible for the draft. He has very little with the draft - be thankful.

I'd be willing to back into the play-offs via a sequence of horrible airplane crashes (because outside of this, I think our post-season will be solely based around drinking at bars).

Posted by: J_S_F | November 29, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

From the looks of your post Joe Soccer Fan it looks like you've been drinking in bars...;)

Posted by: DadRyan | November 29, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

There's a purple CR9 jersey? I know what I'm asking Santa for.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 29, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the most encouraging thing from all of Benny's comments was a recognition that it will take time to build a roster that can compete for a trophy. While in some ways an obvious statement, the fact that he is trying to lower expectations shows a real maturity. Now its up to the front office to give him the time and talent to turn around the club. I have concerns about whether he is really ready to be a head coach, but what the hell. Its not like we have the roster to contend yet, so its not going to be the coache's's fault if the team does not make the playoffs. There is an advantage to walking into a situation that no reasonable person expects much success in the short term. I'm just not sure if the front office is headed by reasonable people. For Benny's sake I'm most concerned that he is entering a situation like Man City a few years back where the roster is not sufficient to contending and ownership refuses to really invest in the club while they look for new ownership, only then to have a massive house cleaning (including coaches) once new ownership invests in a major roster upgrade, thus leaving Benny in a de facto care taker role and no place to sit once the music ends.

Posted by: nyjer1 | November 29, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

I think we have some decent trade bait, and could see Najar up top as the striker with Hernandez as the withdrawn forward up top. With the dirth of midfeilders why would you not protect your 18 y.o. protege by moving him up top?
We would have an over the top and through-ball threat and a holding forward.

Then only thing I see left in this picture is a "True" left back and a middle defender to pair with jacovic. James outside right defense laying down the funk, and we're all good.

Olson is not really getting thrown to the wolves like others say since this is going to be an un-interupted season and one where DCU will not be participating in any international competitions so managing the roster will actually be a standard affair this year barring injuries.

Looks like a great time period to work in a new coach to me!!

Can't wait to see what moves are next.

Posted by: Phishen02 | November 29, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean Quaranta is going to remain captain? Please say no. Give the armband to Boskovic Bennie.

Posted by: JaimeSegundo | November 29, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Approximately 112 days until United's first 2011 league match!

And Ben's army marches on . . .

Posted by: Curious99 | November 29, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse


That's why Benny has done little after this post season but watch for college talent. Not sure what you're basing this off of.

Posted by: UnitedDemon1 | November 29, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

The captain's armband to do-nothing dud Boscovic. That's rich. The only thing he ought to get is a bus ticket out of here. Unfortuately we are contractually stuck with Boscoloser.

An we don't need a faded, slow, and skill-depleted JP Angel. That would be Emilio III. Or is it IV?

Posted by: Ron16 | November 29, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

You're just a punk-a$$ Eurosnob in a purple Cristiano Ronaldo jersey.

Posted by: alecw81


I wish.

And I wish I had Puyol's hair, too.

Just finished watching the beat-down. Anyone know how to say can of whupass in Catalan?

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | November 29, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Olsen's da man!

I'm glad to see KP let Ben select his own asst. coaches and receiving courtesies that Onalfo never did.

I don't know what anyone has against Bosko; he'll be better this year, having time to get used to the team. JP Angel? I'd rather we spend $$$ on a younger player because Angel's about 37.

Quaranta as captain? Sure to start the season, but I don't think he's good enough to hold that armband all season. He's something of a loudmouth, but every time he gets the ball, you know exactly what he's going to do...It's almost like he thinks he's running routes in the NFL.


Posted by: ericruenes | November 29, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Re: Barca v Real Madrid

Who cares?

It's La Liga.

Are any of you from Barcelona or Madrid?

Live there for several years and become attached to the club by attending nearly every match?

Not likely.

You're just a punk-a$$ Eurosnob in a purple Cristiano Ronaldo jersey.

Posted by: alecw81

Is this a joke? Two of the best teams with two of the best players on the planet played today are you're chastising commenters on a blog called Soccer Insider for being interested? Seriously?

You're a world-class !D!OT, alecw81.

Grow up. You can love DCU and still watch La Liga.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | November 29, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

I pray Ben Olsen doesn't end up like Zorn did in DC. I hope he gets the time he needs to rebuild this team. And I certainly love that he's the coach. I just wish he had more experience and a better team to work with.

Posted by: tundey | November 30, 2010 4:11 AM | Report abuse

The one good thing about this hiring is you know that from here on out, all players wearing DC United unis will be held accountable. You know they'll play with passion. And you know Ben won't make decisions based on undisclosed personal issues with certain players. Also, hopefully, we won't have players playing out of position (like trying to make Santino into a playmaker).

Posted by: tundey | November 30, 2010 4:16 AM | Report abuse

Ben Olsen should give the team the same motivational speech I give my co-ed team when we've stunk up the 1st half:

"Let's play more like Barcelona!"

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | November 30, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Another emerging issue is Clyde Simms. Either he's moving to the back line, or Najar is moving up to forward.

The odd man out is Hernandez. Look, you're a forward and you couldn't find the back of the net the entire year. I don't care how good you look in practice.

My prediction:

Throw Pontius uptop with Najar

Support with Dax, Bosco, Simms, Santino

Back line: Ethan White, Jankavic, James, Zaynor

Posted by: dsheon1 | November 30, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Re: Barca v Real Madrid

Who cares?

It's La Liga.

Are any of you from Barcelona or Madrid?

Live there for several years and become attached to the club by attending nearly every match?

Not likely.

You're just a punk-a$$ Eurosnob in a purple Cristiano Ronaldo jersey.

Posted by: alecw81

I've lived in both cities. Do I get a free Christmas jamon?

Posted by: Reignking | November 30, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I got a temporary slogan

"Rebuild with Ben in 2010"

not sure how to get it to work with eleven though.

If you want to emulate Barcelona, play a 4-6-0. Barcelona has guys who go up together and play off of each other rather than just dumping a longball into a target player.

They press hard in midfield to get the ball back, and take lots of chances offensively. They have people with confidence on the ball who draw more players onto them such that when they pass out, someone is free. They don't always make the obvious pass, which makes them unpredictable and hard to defend. Of course they also have a dream team chock full of well-paid players, but the basic style is worth considering.

I know from watching Arsenal v. Villa last weekend with Fabregas out of the mix, Villa didn't know who to mark-Arshavin, Nasri, or was a balanced attacking threat. I think when you start putting all of the attacking role on one guy, in the MLS he gets hacked and whacked until he gets injured and removed from play. Spread the threat around some.

By designating a player up top, you take them out of the press, and put it all on them. This is bad two ways, in that it takes that up top player out of the defensive press, and it also alleviates pressure on midfielders to push forward with the attack. A real team based defense mentality would benefit this club.

I don't want to see Najar stuck up top waiting for long balls. I want to see Najar, Bosko, and Dax working in a triangle on attack together, taking chances and getting creative, and if they turn it over, pressing hard to get the ball back.

I really despise the goalie-gets-the-ball-and-punts-a-50:50-as-far-as he can approach. I would much rather see him distribute the ball out and have our offense work the ball up the field in a meaningful attack.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 30, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I seriously thought Etcheverry would have been introduced as coach. There is no one (as far as ex-players are concerned) that would have been a better coach than Etch. We'll see him eventually - maybe in three years. Good luck Ben.

Posted by: ChorzoMan | November 30, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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