Despite one victory in 14 matches, D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen is not in danger of losing his job.
“Ben gave us a pulse again [when appointed to the full-time job in 2011] and we believe in him and support him,” General Manager Dave Kasper told the Insider on Tuesday. “He has faced a lot of difficult circumstances. We believe he will turn this around. The future is bright with Ben Olsen.”
Just seven months after appearing in MLS’s Eastern Conference finals, United (1-10-3) is carrying a club-record 12-game winless streak. The club has been shut out nine times and scored six goals.
Before the season, United exercised the option on Olsen’s contract, which is now guaranteed through the 2014 campaign. MLS coaching salaries are rarely made public.
“We have five months of soccer ahead of us and we are very close to turning this around,” Kasper said. “We’re not giving up on the playoffs. In our league, anything is possible. It’s certainly a big challenge, but one we are ready to face. It’s going to be a real battle [for Eastern Conference playoff spots] until the end.”
Kasper rooted his optimism in the return of injured players, the maturing of young players, improving overall play and, most importantly, the likelihood of roster additions during the summer transfer window, which will open July 9.
“We have some interesting options,” he said, declining to name the club’s targeted players. He did say, though, United is focused on attackers. Kasper and scouting coordinator Kurt Morsink recently scouted in Serbia and attended a Partizan-Red Star match.
Villarreal’s Marcos Senna said this week he is leaving La Liga to play in MLS, but with the Brazilian-born Spaniard in the latter stages of his career, United is unlikely to sign Senna. He will turn 37 next month. United did show interest in him several years ago.
United addressed defensive concerns last week by acquiring Swiss left back Alain Rochat from the Vancouver Whitecaps for two draft picks.
Two trialists from the French second division completed workouts, and although the club did not offer them contracts, it did like Algerian center back Habib Bellaid and could reach out again this summer.
Several additional trialists will arrive next week and the following week, Kasper said.
Asked how the investment group has reacted to the poor start, Kasper said: “They are concerned, but our conversations were supportive and positive, and they want to provide the resources to get us back there. It’s a priority of ownership to turn this around.”
United’s three investors will meet in Washington in mid- to late-July to discuss matters with the technical staff. The group communicates regularly with the front office, but because the individuals are scattered, they do not meet often. Erick Thohir, the primary backer, lives in Indonesia. Will Chang is based in the San Francisco area. And Jason Levien, the voice of the group, operates in Washington.
Kasper said he is not concerned about lingering issues between Olsen and captain Dwayne De Rosario, who clashed about playing time last month.
De Rosario is “a competitor, he’s a winner, and he wants to be on the field,” Kasper said. “You don’t want players voicing their frustration in the press, but he wants to play and wants to win. He and Ben worked it out.”
After facing the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup’s round of 16 at Maryland SoccerPlex, United will play three consecutive league matches at home against teams with losing records: Toronto FC, San Jose and Vancouver.