United coaching staff with keen eye on World Cup qualifying
While many of the world’s soccer fans focus on Europe forthe start of the Old Continent’s championships this afternoon, June 8 is anequally important date on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Friday marks the beginning of the thirdround of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and D.C.United’s coaching staff are among those who will be heavily invested in theNorth American competition.
After Friday's practice Head Coach Ben Olsen admitted that soccer viewing has been ‘almost ruined’ for him because of thetactical lense through which he now watches the game. Still, when it comes to theU.S., Olsen is - first and foremost - a supporter.
“I’m a fan now,” Olsen said Friday morning. “I’malways intrigued by what Jurgen [Klinsmann] is doing with that group. Sometimes it has worked very well andsometimes people are finding out that this is going to be a process with whathe is trying to implement. Ultimately, I’m looking for them to win games and win games in the rightway so we can go to the World Cup.”
The U.S. starts its road to Brazil in Tampa on Friday nightagainst Antigua and Barbuda. The Americans are an overwhelming favorite, butOlsen cautioned against taking anything for granted.
“It helps that it’s the first qualifier so they are mentallypretty ready and pretty tuned in,” added United’s second-year coach. “Most of those guys are seasoned prosand they understand that even though it’s a team that can’t compete on a soccerlevel, whenever you play in qualifiers, anything can happen. An early red card or a difficult ref,it is never that easy of a process.”
Just over 300 miles south of Tampa – in Havana, Cuba - Canadabegan their quest to advance to CONCACAF’s final qualifying round for thefirst time since 1997 with a 1-0 victory over Cuba. United captain Dwayne De Rosario played all ninety minutes for Les Rouges after noting that thisqualification could potentially be his ‘last go at it’ earlier in the week. Few know DeRo better than D.C.assistant coach Pat Onstad, who has played alongside the reigning MLS MVP forCanada as well as in San Jose and Houston.
“I think that’s Dwayne,” Onstad said Friday regarding DeRosario’s comments. “I think helikes to find motivation and likes to put pressure on himself. I don’t know if it is a last shot. I think it’s a good group of playersthat have grown up and I think they are hitting their peak. I’d love to see them turn the fortunesaround for Canada.”