116street Soccer

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Location: New York, New York

Friday, June 09, 2006

Know Your Yanks: Ben Olsen

Once the next rising star in U.S. Soccer, now a role player for the Yanks; Ben Olsen is a story of heartbreak and perseverance.

Ben Olsen has long been associated with USA Coach Bruce Arena, yet this will be his first World Cup. An Arena recruit at the University of Virginia, Olsen actually moved in with Arena during his MLS rookie season in 1998, when both were with D.C. United. Olsen was an immediate success with D.C., winning MLS Rookie of the Year as a right midfielder, and appearing to be set for sure stardom. 1999 was an even better season, as D.C. won the MLS Cup, with Olsen being named MLS Cup MVP. His performances for D.C. United garnered overseas attention, as English First Division side Nottingham Forest came calling. Olsen went to Forest on loan, and turned in some impressive performances, before a serious ankle injury would nearly end his career. Olsen wouldn't play for another 18 months.
Olsen, who had made his U.S. debut in 1998, seemed set to play as the squad's right wing midfielder for many years to come before his injury setback. He missed the entire 2001 season and much of 2002 rehabbing his ankle, and when he finally returned to D.C. United, he no longer had the necessary speed to play a wide position. Fortunately, due to his intelligence, he was able to adapt to a central position in midfield, becoming a tough defensive presence while still adding offensive support. His leadership skills eventually put him back into the USA national picture, where he is often used as a reserve central midfielder. Olsen remains a fixture with D.C. to this day, starting every match in their march to the MLS Cup title in 2004.
Olsen contributes as a holding midfielder, using his ability to possess the ball and win the ball from defenders to control the game's tempo. He still has a powerful shot, and can pass well, although his footspeed is lacking for the international level. He won't start at all for the U.S., and may not even play in the tournament, but his positive attitude and leadership will help strengthen the squad.

Career Highlights:
1998: Makes pro debut with D.C. United (USA, Major League Soccer). Named MLS Rookie of the Year. Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.

1999: Wins MLS Cup with D.C. Named MLS Cup MVP.

2000: Joins Nottingham Forest (England, First Division) on loan from MLS.

2002: Returns to D.C. United and U.S. National Team, after 18-month injury layoff.

2004: Wins MLS Cup with D.C.

2005: Wins Gold Cup with USA


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