Ben Olsen met with reporters — all three of us — after D.C. United training Tuesday morning.
How do you balance the needs of a league match Saturday at Toronto FC with the more important U.S. Open Cup final just three days later at Real Salt Lake?
“You’ve got to give the guys who are going to play in Toronto a chance to succeed, but at the same time, a lot of our focus right now is getting ready for Salt Lake.”
Ok, so are you sending the under-16s or under-18s to Toronto?
“These opportunities are rare in professional sports, where you have to decide that you might need a whole new group to play in a real league game, so it’s a great opportunity for some of these guys. We have had that luxury — I hesitate to call it a luxury: It’s because of the situation we are in with the league that we can experiment a little bit and really get a look at guys in real games. That is a positive out of negative right now.”
Translation: Needing to save his regulars for the Open Cup, Olsen will turn to, among others, homegrowns Conor Shanosky, Collin Martin and Michael Seaton, veterans Sainey Nyassi and Carlos Ruiz, and young back-ups Casey Townsend, Kyle Porter and Dennis Iapichino in Toronto.
The recent league matches — a 2-2 home draw with Los Angeles and a 2-1 loss at New England — were preparation for the Open Cup. What did you take from those performances?
“In the L.A. game, we showed we can compete with one of the best teams in the league. That is important. The New England game, we learned some lessons from a team that is very tidy on the ball and poses matchup problems. New England is tough to play against. They do some similar things to Salt Lake, so in that sense, it was good to play them. But I still don’t put too much stock in the last game: It’s on a small field, it’s on turf. It’s a different animal than [playing in] Salt Lake. For the most part, I am throwing that game out. Mostly, it’s about our preparation this week for Salt Lake.”
Starting center back Daniel Woolard has missed two games with a hamstring injury. Will he return to the mix by next week?
“He is coming along. It’s slow. It’s good that Ethan [White] has gotten two games here and seems to be getting into rhythm, so if we have to go with him, we have faith in him as well.”
Would you like to reflect on the officiating at New England (dodgy call on the first penalty kick and a questionable offside decision resulting in the equalizer)?
“New England got the wrong end of the stick the week before with two calls. So it’s happening all over the league. I am trying not to even get into it because I read coaches’ [comments] every week going after the referees — and I have been a part of that. In the end, it’s a frustrating thing for a lot of us, but everyone is getting them so I can at least live with that.”