CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — MLS suspended D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen for the season opener for berating the referee after the RFK Stadium’s farewell match last fall. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.
The league took the action in the days after the Oct. 22 match against the New York Red Bulls but never announced the penalties publicly. During an interview with the Insider on Tuesday, Olsen mentioned in passing that he would not be on the sideline for the March 3 match at Orlando City.
He admitted directing unsavory language at referee Dave Gantar on the field after the final whistle and in the tunnel leading to the locker rooms following the 2-1 defeat in the final MLS game at RFK.
About a week later, Olsen said he stumbled upon his name on an internal disciplinary report. He said he was never contacted by the league. “I found out in the wrong way,” he said.
According to league sources, however, MLS did send a disciplinary notice to Olsen three days after the incident.
When Olsen inquired about the suspension, someone read him what Gantar had written on the match report. Olsen apparently missed the deadline to appeal, but even if he had met it: “I don’t know if I would’ve had much of a case. It was heat of the moment, an emotional day, the end of the season, end of RFK. We’re all supposed to have thick skin, including the officials.”
Olsen had been upset about Luciano Acosta’s red card in the 70th minute, issued for a confrontation near New York’s net.
On Tuesday night, MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche confirmed Olsen had been suspended and fined for “failing to act in a responsible manner.”
There was no timetable for formally announcing the suspension, he added.
Banned from the sideline, Olsen will watch the opener from a private suite at Orlando City Stadium. Longtime assistant Chad Ashton will run the show. It won’t be the first time. Most recently, in 2016, Olsen was suspended twice: for stepping onto the field to retrieve an errant second ball during an April match and for getting ejected for “generally being annoying” to the referee during an August game.
Both D.C. and Orlando will be without suspended central midfielders in the opener: Acosta for the red card in the RFK finale and Sacha Kljestan for a halftime incident in Toronto during the 2017 playoffs while he was a member of the Red Bulls. (Kljestan will miss the first two games of the season with his new team.)