Washington, D.C. (November 24, 2009) – D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen today announced his retirement from professional soccer. Arguably the most popular player in United history, the midfielder won eight total trophies while in DC, including two MLS Cups (1999 & 2004). He was a two-time All-Star (1998 & 1999), the 1998 MLS Rookie of the Year, the 1999 MLS Cup MVP, the 2003 USSF Humanitarian of the Year and was named to the MLS Best XI in 2007.
“Ben Olsen has been called the heart and soul of D.C. United and, over the years, that is exactly what we’ve come to expect from him,” said D.C. United President and CEO Kevin Payne. “Since he joined our team as the League’s first Project-40 player until his last game in the 2009 season, Ben gave all that he had for his team and his teammates. You can’t replace a player like Ben, you simply hope that other players can step up and shoulder the mantle that he carried for so long. He’s simply one of the greatest players in D.C. United history.”
Olsen, 32, finishes his career amongst the club’s all-time leaders in every key category –second in games played (221), minutes played (17,098), game-winning goals (13), third in assists (49) and shots on goal (155) and seventh all-time in goals (29). He is also one of only seven United players in club history to score a hat trick. His three-goal game came against D.C.’s chief rival, the New York Red Bulls, on June 10, 2007 – a 4-2 United win.
“Ben has enjoyed a remarkable career at D.C. United and it has been a true pleasure working with such a special person,” said United General Manager Dave Kasper. “He has defined what United is all about, and he has set a high bar for professional soccer players in the United States. In his 12 years at D.C. United, he brought us heart, character, personality, intelligence and championships. I know that Ben will be successful in everything that he does in life, and I wish he and his family the best of luck always.”
Olsen came onto the MLS scene in 1998 as one of the most exciting flank players in the young League’s history. During his first three seasons with the Black-and-Red, Olsen played in 72 total games (63 starts) and contributed 10 goals and 22 assists. Playing primarily on the right side of midfield, the young Pennsylvania native garnered numerous individual honors – 1998 MLS Rookie of the Year, and 1998 MLS All-Star and 1999 MLS Cup MVP – and helped D.C. capture the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, 1998 InterAmerican Cup, 1999 Supporters’ Shield and 1999 MLS Cup.
His play both with United and the U.S. Men’s National Team was so impressive that England’s Nottingham Forest took note and brought Olsen in on trial in late 2000. The midfielder made several appearances while with Forest, but his time abroad was cut short when he severely fractured his ankle in a December game. The injury required four surgeries and continuous rehab over nearly two years, before Olsen was able to make his return to the pitch with United in July of 2002.
With his speed limited following the injury and surgeries, Olsen reinvented himself from an up-and-down the flank midfielder to a savvy, steadfast central midfielder. A move to the center of the park saw Olsen flourish during the second stage of his career. Back on the field full-time in 2003, the tenacious player put together some of his most impressive seasons from 2003-2007, helping United capture the 2004 MLS Cup, and the 2006 and 2007 Supporters’ Shield. Perhaps his finest season as a professional came during the 2007 campaign when Olsen tallied seven goals and seven assists in 24 games (21 starts) and was named to the MLS Best XI.
Olsen’s dedication and character were tested once again at the end of 2007, when his ankles required four additional corrective surgeries. Facing significant rehab to get back on the field for the second time in his career, Olsen missed the entire 2008 season, save for one substitute appearance in July. He continued to rehab throughout the year and into the off-season, and when the team reconvened for pre-season in early 2009, Olsen was on the field for what would be the final season of his career. Playing through pain during the entire campaign, Olsen managed to see time in 20 games (18 starts), collecting a goal and an assist. For his efforts, he was a finalist for the League Comeback Player of the Year award.
His final goal in D.C.’s Black-and-Red colors served as the perfect representation for the grit and determination Olsen always brought to the field. Down 1-0 at home against the New England Revolution in stoppage time, Olsen threw his body into a mass of players to meet a Jaime Moreno free kick with his head, redirecting the ball into the back of the net as he tumbled to the ground. His effort helped D.C. salvage a point only moments before the final whistle.
In addition to his time at United, Olsen also had an illustrious career with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He made his full international debut against Australia on November 6, 1998. His first goal for the U.S. came in just his second international game when he tallied against Chile on February 21, 1999. In 2000, he was part of the team that reached the bronze medal game at the Sydney Olympics before falling to Chile. His ankle injuries limited his time with the National Team, but he was selected to the 2006 World Cup team and played 51 minutes in the team’s final match against Ghana. All told, the midfielder earned 37 caps and six goals with the U.S. National Team.
Prior to his professional career, from 1995-97, Olsen spent three seasons at the University of Virginia. During his time with the Cavaliers, the team posted a 56-8-8 record. All told, the midfielder compiled 34 goals with 41 assists and started and played every game (69) of his collegiate career. After his junior season, he was named the 1997 Soccer America Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy. He was also named as the ACC Tournament MVP and selected to the NSCAA All-American first-team after his senior year.
As a 16-year old high schooler, Olsen was named the Pennsylvania Player of the Year in 1994, and the next year was tabbed as Parade Magazine's National Player of the Year as a senior at Middletown H.S.
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