D.C. United's Ben Olsen is set to retire

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009; 6:59 PM

Ben Olsen, D.C. United's tireless midfielder who overcame severe ankle injuries to resurrect his career, has decided to retire, several sources said Friday. A formal announcement is expected next week.

Olsen, 32, is not a candidate for United's head coaching job, one source said, but seems likely to remain with the organization in some capacity, perhaps as an assistant coach.

Neither Olsen nor club officials were willing to discuss the matter, but current and former players around the league said Olsen's departure has become a topic of discussion.

Since leaving the University of Virginia a year early to sign with United in 1998, the Middletown, Pa., native has made 221 regular season appearances and 200 starts, both ranking second in club history behind captain Jaime Moreno. His 49 assists are third on the team's career list.

Olsen missed the 2001 season and part of the following year after breaking his ankle while on loan to English club Nottingham Forest. He enjoyed perhaps his finest year in 2007 with seven goals, seven assists and selection to MLS's Best XI all-league team, but didn't respond well to postseason surgery on both ankles and missed all but one game in 2008.

After contemplating retirement last winter, Olsen had to work with the club to carefully manage his playing time this season. He ended up playing 20 of 30 league matches and started 18, mostly in defensive midfield for a team that missed the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Olsen said last month that he wanted to continue playing but would have to discuss the situation with club officials and reassess his physical condition. Olsen's decision is timely for United, which, besides searching for Tom Soehn's replacement as head coach, is in the process of deciding whom to protect on its roster ahead of Wednesday's expansion draft and whose contracts should be renewed before the Dec. 1 deadline. Olsen's $225,000 base salary was tied for fourth largest on the team this year.

Beyond his on-field contributions over 11 years, Olsen became the face of the club, a visible presence in the community and instrumental in the players' union. He was MLS's humanitarian of the year in 2003.

Olsen was part of two MLS Cup-winning squads (1999 and 2004) and represented the United States at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company