United's Olsen Expected to Miss 3-4 Weeks With Hamstring Strain

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

After watching Ben Olsen limp off the field early in Saturday's MLS match, D.C. United was resigned to the fact that the veteran midfielder would not be available for tonight's U.S. Open Cup play-in game against New York at RFK Stadium.

The club learned this week, however, that Olsen will miss much more than the nonleague meeting with the Red Bulls. A Grade 2 hamstring strain was diagnosed, and he'll need three to four weeks for recovery and rehabilitation. At best, he would sit out three league matches and return June 13 against Chicago.

Olsen started six of United's first seven MLS games, but missed the next two with a mild strain to his right hamstring. He returned to full-time training and was in the lineup against Chivas USA this past weekend. In the sixth minute, though, he "felt it go again" and signaled to the coaching staff for a substitution.

"This one's on me -- it's my fault," he said. "In the past, I've pushed myself and it worked out. This time, I pushed myself too far. Sometimes I want to play too badly."

The setback interrupts Olsen's comeback from a left ankle ailment that limited him to one appearance last year and jeopardized a productive and inspiring career that began in 1998. He contemplated retirement over the winter, but after testing the ankle and carefully managing his preseason activity, Olsen earned his way back into the lineup.

His tying goal against New England on April 17 marked the first of four late rallies in a six-game span by United (3-1-6), which is tied with Chicago for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Tom Soehn believes his early-season tactic of rotating lineups and grooming young players will help offset Olsen's absence, saying: "The reason for keeping everyone involved is for situations just like this so it doesn't fall off much. What you lose by not having Benny, you get different qualities from someone else. . . . We have had a lot of guys shuffle in and out of there, and it will be time for someone else to take over and grow a little bit."

Andrew Jacobson (seven appearances) and Devon McTavish (three) are the top candidates to join Clyde Simms in defensive midfield.

"We're definitely going to miss him, but I believe in the other midfielders," Simms said. "Fortunately, they've been able to get a decent amount of minutes, so it won't be new to them."

Besides Simms's new partner, Soehn is likely to make several other changes tonight. Possible additions include goalkeeper Josh Wicks; defenders Greg Janicki and Avery John; and forward Ange N'Silu.

Despite being defending champion, United needs to qualify for the formal stages of the U.S. Open Cup, a 95-year-old tournament involving clubs from all levels of American soccer. The top six teams in the 2008 MLS regular season received automatic berths while the others have had to toil in the preliminary rounds.

United defeated Dallas last month, and with a victory tonight, would bypass the first two rounds of the tournament and enter the round of 16 on June 30.

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