Midfielder Ben Olsen said that he isn't looking beyond Sunday, when his club, D.C. United, faces the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Major League Soccer championship game at Foxboro (Mass.) Stadium. But there's no denying that Olsen's future outside of MLS is looking brighter than ever.
In addition to his likely inclusion on the U.S. Olympic squad next year and his regular role on Coach Bruce Arena's national team, Olsen continues to attract attention from foreign clubs. According to sources, the latest suitor interested in bidding for his services is Necaxa, the Mexico City power that won the CONCACAF Champions Cup title in Las Vegas last month.
Over the summer, Mexican clubs Toluca and Leon expressed interest in the fiery 22-year-old from the University of Virginia.
"Unless something really crazy comes up, I really don't need to think about it," Olsen said yesterday at United Park. "Everyone on our team is good enough to play in other countries; D.C. is that good. But we're all really happy here because this is the place to be in America."
Olsen signed a long-term contract extension with MLS last offseason, a pact that eventually could earn him one of the league's top salaries among American players. MLS officials said last week that they want to extend the deal and increase Olsen's earnings and incentives.
"Right now, I just want to get a national championship," he said. "That's all that is on my mind."
Captain Marco Etcheverry's goal from the midfield circle against Miami in May was named the MLS goal of the year yesterday--the second time in three years that he has won the award. Etcheverry received 47 percent of the votes registered on the league Web site, well ahead of Chicago's Ante Razov (33 percent) and San Jose's Eddie Lewis (19 percent).
"Lucky, very lucky," Etcheverry said about the 50-yard goal in the final minute that sealed a 3-1 victory. He has attempted shots from that distance several times over the years, but never succeeded until catching Fusion goalkeeper Jeff Cassar drifting from the goal line. . . .
Tampa Bay midfielder Steve Ralston, who led the league with 18 assists, won the Fair Play Award after playing 2,872 minutes without receiving a yellow or red card. The Columbus Crew won the team award for accumulating only nine yellows and no reds in 32 regular season games. . . .
Paul Tamberino of Monkton, Md., was named referee of the year for the second consecutive season in a vote of MLS coaching staffs. The league will announce the coach and goalkeeper of the year today. . . .
In a major boost to its financial situation, MLS announced that three original sponsors have renewed their agreements with the league. Budweiser and Honda signed through the 2003 season, and Pepsi made an unspecified commitment. Each deal is worth an estimated $2 million a year.
MLS continues to try to complete deals with two other original sponsors, AT&T and Bic. Last year, Asia-based Fuji Film and Bandai withdrew, but Internet service Yahoo! was signed to a long-term deal.
D.C. defender Diego Sonora (calf injury) practiced yesterday and probably will be available to play in the final, but Coach Thomas Rongen said he isn't sure whether he'll start Sonora or Carey Talley, who played well at right back last weekend.
"We'll see how Diego progresses," Rongen said. "It's too premature to make a decision, but Talley certainly made a strong case for himself on Saturday."