It’s Been a Good Week For Ben Olsen And DC United

New contract, stadium progress and Champions League victory
by Peter Muller   |   Friday, September 26, 2014

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

Ben Olsen has had a good week.

On Monday the D.C. United Head Coach was rewarded for his team’s unexpectedly good season with a new 5-year contract that is reported to contain guaranteed money, a generous deal by MLS standards.

That same day, United’s Managing General Partner Jason Levien reiterated recent comments suggesting the team’s long hoped-for plans to develop a new stadium in the District of Columbia are proceeding well.

And on Wednesday, D.C. became the first U.S. club to qualify for the quarterfinals of the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League, an advancement that allows the team to now devote all its efforts toward a strong finish to the regular season and preparation for the playoffs.

Olsen has been a key figure at D.C. United ever since he joined the club out of the University of Virginia in 1998 and won rookie of the year honors that year.  He won the MLS Cup MVP award in 1999, securing his place in D.C. United lore, and his aggressive style of play and commitment to both the team and the city has earned him the devotion of the team’s passionate fan-base.

The new contract is in recognition of Olsen’s standing with the club as well as the turnaround he and General Manager Dave Kasper engineered following last season’s debacle.

A team that won just three MLS games in 2013 now holds the top position in the Eastern Conference with 5 games remaining and looks poised to make a statement in the postseason.

Prior to announcing Olsen’s contract extension on Monday, Levien made a rare appearance on a local media outlet and expounded on recent comments regarding prospects for a new stadium in D.C. 

On WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, as well as in comments to the team’s website, Levien made clear that this discussions with the Mayor, D.C. City Council members and local developers are going well.

“As I’ve spent more time with those folks, we recognize that ‘Hey, this is going to happen’,” Levien told dcunited.com.  “The impediments that are in the way of it happening are being reduced.”

On the field, United beat Panamanian side Tauro FC 2-0 at RFK Stadium Wednesday behind goals by Chris Pontius, who is rounding into form after a long-term injury, and Eddie Johnson, who returned to the field after recovering from concussion symptoms. 

The victory propelled United into the quarterfinal round of the Champions League, which will begin play in February.

United was able to take advantage of a weak group stage draw that included Tauro and the Jamaican team Waterhouse FC, neither of which was ever likely to pose much of a threat to the MLS club.

But by winning both of its home games and earning a draw in Jamaica, United ensured that its return trip to Panama to face Tauro in the final match of the group stage on October 21 is largely moot.

The result of that final game could have some bearing on seeding for the quarterfinals but since it is not a must-win game United will have the luxury of fielding a reserve team and saving its starters for MLS matchups.

Notes:

United hopes to bring its week to a successful conclusion when it hosts the Philadelphia Union at RFK Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

D.C. has a 3 point lead in the Eastern Conference standings but second place Sporting Kansas City will try to draw even when they play New England tonight.  United will host Sporting in a showdown at RFK next Friday, October 3.

Philadelphia has been resurgent under the leadership of Jim Curtin, who took over management of the club on an interim basis mid-year, but at the moment is on the outside of the playoff hunt looking in.  Philadelphia is in the 6th spot in the East, trailing 5th place Columbus by 2 points.

MLS.com announced its annual list of the “24 under 24” players to watch in MLS.  United’s Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen were both named to the list.

NEXT UP: September 27 - DC United vs. Philadelphia Union, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, 3:00 PM ET, NBC Sports Network

Peter MULLER

Nationality:
USA
College:
Saint Mary's
Club Domestic:
DC United
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.
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