WASHINGTON – Ben Olsen will lead D.C. United into battle against Toronto FC in the final game of a three-month stint as interim head coach on Saturday night, and the close of that testing tenure is surely on his mind.
Yet the departure of Jaime Moreno is just about the only topic on his lips this week, as his longtime friend and colleague prepares to ride into the sunset after one final Saturday evening at RFK Stadium.
Olsen and Moreno were United teammates for a decade and, over that time, they came to embody the club’s style and virtues, both tenacious and classy in contrasting ways. On Thursday afternoon, Olsen took time out from the week’s preparations to share a few thoughts with MLSsoccer.com on the eve of Moreno’s last match in Black and Red.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve answered plenty of questions about Jaime this week. What do you see as his most important legacy?
Olsen: He’s helped this team win a lot of trophies. He’s scored a lot of goals, he’s had a lot of assists, but I think what Jaime would probably say is the biggest feather in his cap is all the championships and all the team wins that he’s had, that have put D.C. United on the map.
MLSsoccer.com: Is it fair to call this the end of an era?
Olsen: I don’t think it’s any harm in saying that. I think turning a new page from our history, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve not been great over the last couple of years and we need to start rewriting a new history for this team.
MLSsoccer.com: You and Jaime seemed to share a similar sense of humor over the years.
Olsen: He’s a great joke-teller. People probably don’t know that about Jaime. He’s got a whole bag of jokes that he likes telling and he’s always got a new one for us in the locker room. I think that’s a side that people don’t see. He’s a clown in the locker room and he’s always done a good job of keeping things loose and putting smiles on guys’ faces.
MLSsoccer.com: He was also a well-known prankster, right? Any memories come to mind?
Olsen: He used to steal [former United coach] Thomas Rongen’s cigarettes all the time. Call Thomas about it, he’ll tell you the story.
MLSsoccer.com: That seems like a pretty risky move for a player.
Olsen: It was, but only Jaime could do something like that. They had a special relationship, so I think Thomas let him get away with it a little bit. I would’ve been benched.
MLSsoccer.com: Jaime says he’s undecided about whether to retire now, or play a bit longer at another club. Do you have any thoughts on that decision?
Olsen: He’s older than me! He knows what to do. He’ll figure it out, he’ll make the right decision. I know this club always is going to have a special spot for him. But on the other side, if he’s got some fire left that he wants to continue playing, we wish him all the best. I think he certainly can continue. He’s still got a lot to offer.
MLSsoccer.com: Would it be sad to see him in another team’s uniform?
Olsen: No. No, I don’t think it’d be sad. I don’t look at it that way. Whatever is in Jaime’s best interest and his family’s best interest, he’ll do. And who are we to judge him on what his next move is?
MLSsoccer.com: It’s also your final game as interim head coach. Do you have any reflections on your stint?
Olsen: I feel an excitement about the week. It’s nostalgic for me as well, to go through this whole celebration of Jaime. I think it’s nostalgic for a lot of us who have seen him and played with him throughout the years. I think we all reflect a little bit when this stuff goes down, and it’ll be a special moment to see him out there – and hopefully put on a good show. We still want to win and we as an organization, as a team, want to get a result for Jaime, because we think he deserves to go out a winner.
MLSsoccer.com: Will that be the main topic in your pregame remarks?
Olsen: I’m not worried about the guys playing for Jaime. That’s one thing I’m not worried about. I don’t think I’ll be having to push any buttons for this game. They know what it means to him, they know what it means to the club.
MLSsoccer.com: So it’s safe to say that Moreno will be in the starting lineup.
Olsen: Yeah, absolutely. Jaime’s going to play. He’s going to play until he falls over. It’s his night and I wish him the best with this whole deal and again, I think it’s going to be a great event. I hope people come out and support him, because he’s given a lot of people a lot of joy throughout his career. And I hope they come back and pay tribute.
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