|First, we exchanged information. Then we talked about Ben Olsen...|
Sometime during the broadcast of DC United’s grim loss to the Philadelphia Union this weekend, the color commentator (I think) casually let slip that Ben Olsen has been coaching DC for six years.
[Cue sound of record scratching and a 13-car pile-up just outside the window.]
SIX FREAKIN’ YEARS? Ben Olsen? Benny-Ball is almost done with kindergarten? When I dropped this into the podcast, the way Cody responded told me I wasn’t alone in finding this...well, unbelievable.
We attempted a brief segment on coaches - e.g. what gets a coach fired and, most critically, who’s the next guy to fall off a hot seat) – but we only hinted at how Olsen fits into that discussion. The answer: he doesn’t. On some levels, he sits outside of it.
Olsen’s career record as DC United’s coach is...dammit. No help, google? What are you even good for? At any rate, according to my somewhat obstructed memory, Ben Olsen’s career record as coach is something like high 60s-low 80s-low 70s – that’s W-L-T. More to the point, Olsen has won exactly one trophy during that time and, even then, it was weird. For those with short memories, DC won its only trophy during the Olsen era – the U.S. Open Cup in 2013 – the same year they bumbled through a historically bad regular season. (Worst ever? If in the 34-game era, without contest. All time? Distinct possibility). There might not be a trophy for a stunt that perverse, but, holy shit, there should be.
In Olsen’s defense, DC has generally made the playoffs under his watchful eyes (and bushy eyebrows); the exceptions came with 2011 and (duh) 2013. And, yes, Olsen was still figuring his shit out in 2011, and 2013’s just…shockingly abysmal 3-24-7 record did no little violence to his career numbers. (Again, this bears stressing: 16 points from 34 games. I...I’m...going to be sick.) It also says something pretty nice about Olsen that DC United made a pretty strong run at the Supporters Shield just the next year (2014).
And yet, what does it say about a team that puts up with that level of...well, yes, let’s call it success. Soccer teams are nothing if not striving entities; the pursuit of excellence defines every sports team (if on paper, or in the same way that every first year coach promises “exciting, proactive possession soccer”). 2014 explains why Olsen stuck through 2015, but, to flip the argument, how far will 2016 go to explaining 2015? Does Olsen get fired if DC fails to make the playoffs, or even flames out early?
Before that broadcast, that sounded like an easy question. Now?