Washington D.C. — After indicating numerous times that Ben Olsen was not in the running for the head coaching job, D.C. United named Olsen its seventh head coach on Monday. Olsen, who was the team’s interim head coach last year after the club fired Curt Onalfo, becomes the youngest head coach in Major League Soccer.
United president Kevin Payne said that the more he and general manager Dave Kasper interviewed coaches and spoke with Olsen for his opinion on the head coaching job, it dawned on them that the 33-year-old D.C. resident was the man they wanted.
“Ben fit the bill,” said Payne, who asked Olsen if he wanted the job last week.
Kasper said the Olsen had the two qualities the team was looking for: His philosophy of the game, and his alignment with the United brand.
“Ben gets it,” Kasper said.
Olsen joined United out of college, and apart from a stint with Nottingham Forest, was a player with the club from 1998-2009. He was very popular with the fans and ranks as one of United’s top players in the club’s history.
Despite Payne’s public comments, Olsen asked Payne to keep an “open mind” about him throughout the coaching search. Payne seems to have done that.
“I don’t regret saying those things,” said Payne, “but I did tell Ben that I’d keep an open mind.”
“I believe in this team,” Olsen said. “We are young and talented, but by a long stretch that is not enough. My job is to mix players into this talented team with guys who refuse to lose.”
The club signed such a player last week when midfielder Dax McCarty joined United from FC Dallas. It was clear that Olsen was key to bringing McCarty - a player similar in style to himself - on board.
“We need production,” said Olsen, a talented and speedy midfielder in his prime that played at the World Cup. “We need clinical finishers.”
In his opening statement to the media at RFK Stadium, Olsen was confident and clear. He was humbled, but commanding in his goals and ambitions.
Olsen has a three-year contract with options. Chad Ashton, the club’s technical director last season, will join him as an assistant and he will bring in two other assistants.
Olsen said he wanted to make the playoffs in 2011 but “in the right way.” He said, “The commitment, the energy, the passion needs to come back, and on top of that we need a little flair.”
Olsen believes that even though he is young, his recent playing experience helps him in his new job.
“Coming off playing in this league is beneficial,” Olsen said. “I know what type of guys can help this team.”
He added: “I’m one of the few coaches in this league that remember what it’s like to be a player, because you forget that very quickly.”
The team went 3-8-1 under Olsen after Onalfo was fired in August and finished with a 6-20-4 record, the worst in MLS.
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