A few hours after D.C. United announced that Ben Olsen would join the U.S. national team for next week's friendly match in Jamaica, U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said late yesterday that the 22-year-old midfielder had not been added to the travel roster.
"It's my job to announce the [U.S.] roster--I think," Arena said sarcastically when told that United had announced Olsen would go on the trip. "It's not my responsibility for the awkward timing of this. I'm happy they've decided to let him go, but we still have a few things to work out."
Arena said he would need a day or two to determine if he could add Olsen to the roster, which had been officially released by the U.S. Soccer Federation Monday. Olsen was not initially included among the 18 players because United refused to make him available, citing shin and groin injuries and fatigue.
But after consulting with Olsen and United's medical staff, D.C. Coach Thomas Rongen and President and General Manager Kevin Payne decided Tuesday night to let him go. Rongen said Payne informed Arena of their decision yesterday morning.
"Maybe our initial reaction regarding Ben's health was a little premature," Rongen said. "Ben has rebounded really well and really wanted to go. . . . We pretty much let Ben make the call."
Said Olsen: "We talked about it and [Rongen and Payne] gave me the blessing to go. I told them I feel better than they thought I felt physically. . . . I understood the reasons [United initially declined to let him go], but any time you get called by the national team, you've got to go and show them what you can do."
If Arena adds him to the roster, Olsen would join United teammates Eddie Pope, Richie Williams and Chris Albright for the game Wednesday in Kingston.
It will be a busy stretch for the D.C. players: United plays the Dallas Burn Saturday night at RFK Stadium before the players invited by Arena fly to South Florida for U.S. training camp.
Following Wednesday's game, the group will travel to Tampa to prepare for an MLS game two days later against the Mutiny. Tampa Bay's Steve Ralston and Chad McCarty have similar travel plans.
Rongen and Payne had said they didn't want Olsen subjected to that hectic schedule--a decision criticized by Arena, who on Monday said Olsen needed to play in an international setting because "he's been playing in some pretty bad [MLS] games lately."
Meanwhile, Rongen was upset that the U.S. game had been scheduled in the first place, taking players from their MLS clubs late in the regular season.
Arena became the U.S. coach last November after guiding United to three straight appearances in the MLS title game. He seems to have maintained a good working relationship with Payne, as well as with Rongen--an important element for a national team coach who frequently requests players from their respective teams for international matches.
"I'd like Ben to go," Arena said, "but it's a little premature to announce anything right now."