Olsen eager to return to United lineup

WASHINGTON -- Last month's overeager response to hamstring troubles sentenced him to a sustained spell on the sidelines. But weeks of cautious rehabilitation have Ben Olsen aiming for an imminent return to match action as D.C. United wade into a busy June schedule.Olsen's relentless desire to contribute to the United cause has become something of a running joke around RFK Stadium -- head coach Tom Soehn has often noted that he invariably expresses his readiness to play, regardless of his injury status. But the veteran midfielder pushed his 32-year-old body too far in a May 16 visit to Chivas USA and aggravated a nagging hamstring problem barely seven minutes into the match, resulting in a grade 2 strain that has taken nearly a month to heal.If anyone can keep that sort of setback in perspective, however, it's Olsen. His 2008 campaign was derailed by nightmarish ankle tribulations that allowed him just 15 minutes of game time and left his career teetering on a knife's edge."Yeah, unfortunately a month isn't that long for me," he acknowledged last week. "I feel anxious to get back, but I don't feel as anxious as I would've if I had a couple years of healthy playing. I'm pushing but trying to be a little bit smarter this time, and really talking to the doctors and trainers and get things where I need to be."United have held their own in his absence, compiling a 2-1-1 record in the four matches he's missed. But mental lapses led to underwhelming results -- and dropped points -- against Real Salt Lake and New England, occasions on which his experience and savvy would surely have been useful."That's part of a senior player's job and some are better at it than others: understanding the game," said Soehn. "Benny, better than most, understands how to win a 1-0 game and what it takes. How to change momentum. It could be a tackle or a play offensively. Benny's done a great job of that through his career, of making game-changing plays or communicating in a way that changes your team's thought process. And that's something that we miss."The tear in his right hamstring has sentenced Olsen to long sessions on the stationary bike, the training table and in the weight room as he advances through the stair-step progression model that is applied to such injuries. But in his typical fashion, he's found a positive spin to put on his latest rehab stint."Maybe this was a good thing for me," he said. "I mean, I never really had a preseason. It's always been from day one, me just grinding things out and this has given the ankle a little rest, and it's given me a chance to get strong, work on the hamstrings and quads and groins and the core, and do some things that I haven't had a chance to do in a couple years. That's my way of looking at it."Though he's yet to fully reintegrate into team training, this week Olsen has worked his way back up to some sprinting and ball work and is holding out hope that he can join United for next week's cross-country road trip to Seattle and Colorado.If Wednesday's first-ever meeting with Sounders FC comes too soon, a June 30 U.S. Open Cup date would be his next opportunity for match play. Soehn has thus far used a number of different players in Olsen's central midfield spot, but wants to see the veteran leader at 100 percent before he dons the No. 14 jersey again."He's been working along on the side and slowly getting back in," said the D.C. boss. "But we're in no rush to bring him back. He's got to be fully healthy before we do that."