The following is Ben Olsen’s responses on a variety of subjects in there entirety. He has a wry way of speaking and tends to joke a bit at first, but he had some interesting thoughts and was genuinely positive and excited about DC United and the upcoming season.
Is this a big off-season turnover for DC United and how do you feel about that?
Olsen: “I can remember one or two [other] years where there’s been kind of an overhaul!” (said wryly). “But it is a big one. Watching the team warm-up out there today, not many faces I recognized as far as having been here. But, it’s nice. New opportunities, new players, plus the guys who have been here, all together. I’m real excited about the team right now.”
How’s the ankles?
“OK. Not as good as I want them to be right now, it’ll take a couple of weeks from now to heal totally. But, it’s still on schedule, it’s still early. I’ll go with the team to Bradenton, but I may come back if it needs a little more time.” [Olsen did not participate in the first practice beyond some jogging and conditioning].
How about all these South Americans coming into the team, is language a concern?
“I’ll have to brush up on my Spanish! No, I was saying just now about how team meetings take twice as long now. After Tommy says something we have to wait around for the translations for the other side of the locker-room. So I’ll have to be pretty patient at meetings. No, It’ll work out fine. As you saw today, we can already communicate out there. Soccer has it’s own language. It’ll sort itself out pretty quickly. We’re all professionals.”
What has been the problem in big games the past few years, and do you think this off-season has addressed those problems?
“I don’t know. You never know until afterward. You can only do your best as a team to find who have been through big games so they know what it takes [to succeed]. But, on the other side of that you have guys here that have now been through big games every year they’re here. Every year they get better and learn what it takes. SO, it works both ways. You need both.”
-“To me it’s about, on the day, can you bring the best that you have as a team, and that’s what I think hasn’t been working the last couple of years. I don’t think it’s any big secret that’s what we’re working on [with these new players]. I don’t think it’s anything to panic about, but that’s what we’re looking to remedy.”
Perkins and Arguez being lower profile players, yet getting signed in Europe for pretty decent transfers, what does that say about MLS?
“It’s getting better! I think it’s two-fold. There’s the awareness that Americans are emerging on the global stage, and also that the American player is getting better. We’re producing a different type of player now. Before it was really hard working, good athletes, good all around soccer players. Now, I think we’re actually producing guys that are really interesting players. Like Freddy, Clint, Eddie Johnson. Certain attributes about them as players are getting people pretty excited about the American player right now.”
Seems like salaries are loosening up in MLS, how do you feel about that?
“Hmmm…. They’re going up at the top level. And that’s great, I’m all for that. I’d like to see some it come up from the league side for the lower levels as well. Getting some of these other guys up as well is important too.”
Will the big salaries cause trouble in teams?
“No, No. It won’t cause trouble as far as he’s making this, he’s making that. We’re all grown men. We understand why some people are getting paid a lot of money. That’s just how the game works. However, the disparity between the top and bottom is disturbing to me. Not on the top side. I’m all for that. Be sure you include that. But, I think the league needs to do more to get some of these minimum guys more money. But, I also think the more we get high value players in this league, the better. I think it’s great.”
The league has said they’re raising the limit of foreign players in order to aid in expansion and keep the level of play up. What do you think about that?
“I think it’s important to continue to the standard of play and see it get better with expansion. They’ve got their ways, their reasons to make sure that happens. I’m sure other people have different views. I see it as a step in the right direction. It helps American players learn and grow and it adds to the foundation of the league.”
Specifically at DC United what do you think needs to happen to integrate all these new players?
“Because you have the language issue, it’s important we all do our best to be inclusive. The quicker you bring guys together, the better. But as you can see right here. These guys are very open and friendly, good guys in the locker-room. Credit to DC United. They always do a good job scouting players including personalities. I think that will make it easier.” [Olsen organized a trip to the Wizards basketball game for the next day and most new players went].
There’s going to be a lot of games this year with all competitions. How do you think the team will be able to handle that and be successful?
“I think we’ve dealt with things like that in a pretty good way despite some of the results last year. I think it wasn’t due to fatigue or anything like that. It was really down to game management. I think we were physically in the right place last year, so this year should be fine.
Right, it seems like last year, the team did everything right, but the results weren’t there…..
“As I said, I’m not a coach, but from a player’s point of view, we need to do better. I can’t pinpoint this game or that situation or one aspect as the problem. There was a lack of focus here, a lack of finishing there, etc. Soccer is not like that. It’s not so black and white as [the media] try to make it. It comes down to during that big game you are performing with all eleven guys at their best. And sometimes that hasn’t happened. And we need to make sure going forward that we are at our collective best in those big games because you get punished for those lapses.”
Do anticipate any changes in your role on the field this year? Still playing outside or moving back inside?
“Way to early for that! It’s a clean slate, anything can happen.”
Bonus quote from Tommy Soehn on integrating the new playersfrom South America.
“They’ve played for several different teams in several different countries. They know how to adapt. You saw today how fast it all came together. That’s why it was so important for us to get these deals done before training camp. To make sure these guys know what we’re about right from the start, and that these guys understand what’s expected of them.”