The matchup against Portland this weekend will see head coach Ben Olsen face familiar opposition from his playing days in current Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese. The pair played a string of matches against one another from 1998 to 2000 with Savarese representing the MetroStars, New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes. In total, the two lined up against each other on eight occasions with an equal 4-4-0 record.
The first matchup came on May 9, 1998 when Savarese visited RFK Stadium in Olsen’s rookie MLS season. Both players made second-half substitute appearances with Olsen coming on in the 77th minute while Savarese entered the match in the 63rd minute. Olsen was able to help the Black-and-Red grind out a 2-0 win in front of 17,000 spectators in his first win over Savarese.
Olsen’s second win against the Timbers coach came on August 22, 1998 in a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the MetroStars. Both Olsen and Savarese started the match and despite the Black-and-Red conceding a 41st-minute goal to Diego Sonora, second-half goals from Jaime Moreno (59’) and Marco Etcheverry (78’) gave United the edge over their rivals up north.
The most resounding win for Olsen against Savarese came in a 5-0 drubbing of the MetroStars on the road at Giants Stadium on September 16, 1998. Olsen scored his first goal against Savarese’s side in the 36th minute to put the Black-and-Red up 3-0 in a massive win for United in a season that would end in MLS Cup glory.
Almost 19 years later to the day, Olsen will face off against Savarese in a different capacity… as head coaches for MLS sides. With D.C. United traveling to Portland in a critical match with playoff implications, Olsen will hope to emulate the same road form from the match in '98. The 3-0 road win against Montreal before the international break will still be ringing in the ears of the Black-and-Red faithful as the team looking to hit their stride right in time for the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs.