Tampa Bay Sports Day

Olsen demands excellence of improving squad

Young or younger, experienced or naïve, skilled or not-so-skilled, DC United coach Ben Olsen has held every player and this team as a whole, to a standard of play and accountability that perhaps far exceeds their capabilities…not that it’s a bad thing.

“I expect a lot from these guys and I want the culture to change and maybe I’m a little tough on them but guess what; this is our job, it’s my job and we have to make sure we realize the importance in all of our roles in turning things around here,” Olsen said.

After a dismal first half in a 1-1 draw with Colorado last Saturday, Olsen laid into his team a bit and they responded with one of their best halves of the season.

“Could I sit back and say, ‘hey, we are a young team and we are in a good spot and we have had some good games and we just tied the champs’ sure I think I could get away with that. But right now, that is the wrong mentality for me and these guys. It’s got to change around here and it starts with me and hopefully my not feeling good about the situation we are in translates and we all fix it together,” continued Olsen.

United (3-4-3, 12 points) have been madly inconsistent through their first ten games but one thing has been very consistent – a bad start equals a bad result or at best, a subpar performance.

“I think that is probably fair,” said Olsen about the notion that bad starts lead to poor results. “Even though I think we were a little flat in the first half (against Colorado), we still didn’t give up many chances and we had, gosh, I mean think about it, we had two tough calls go against us and two offside calls and we are in once or twice and those are the type of calls that change games.

“Even though we didn’t come out with the right energy, it was still some good stuff and we should have come out of there with a goal or two. Now the second half was very good; very, very good.”

In their previous two starts against Seattle and FC Dallas, a win and a draw respectively both at home, United started well and it led to a good overall performance. They limited chances, moved the ball well and most importantly, defended as a cohesive unit in all parts of the field.

But just that quickly, they reverted back to some old habits and had to chase the game from midway through the first half. The flank midfielders were floating too high up the field leaving way too much space for Dax McCarty and Clyde Simms to cover in the midfield and the goal was given away on yet another free kick.

“We were not sharp enough from the get-go. This is the part of the process that needs to get better with this young group. We think we are better than we really are because we had two games, so now we go out and forget about the commitment, the fight, all the little things that got us the results we had in the last two games. We started off in an unacceptable manner,” Olsen said.

“We have to stop giving up the first goal,” said McCarty. “We are a good enough team in this league that if we score the first goal we are going to win most, if not all of the games that we play. We didn’t start the game off as well as we should have but that being said, we limited their chances but again, it feels like a broken record here, but they scored off a set piece.”

Olsen didn’t expect a level run all the way through this marathon so the first third of the season has not surprised him.

“We all expected the ups and downs because of the youth and the new team but what is disappointing is that the peaks have not been super-peaks. We have had had some games where we are on them; we are stepping on the gas and we have had some opportunities to punish teams and we are not doing that and that’s disappointing.

“We have left a lot of points on the table and that is probably why I don’t feel so great because there have been points (to get). We are growing and as long as continue to have less peaks and valleys and have better performances from here on out I think we will be okay.”

United host the recently-crowned Eredivisie champion Ajax Amsterdam in an international friendly this Sunday at RFK Stadium. While injury issues will limit Olsen’s choices for the match, he said he will field a respectable team in deference to the legendary Dutch side but his focus is clearly on next week’s league match at Portland.

“Obviously our focus is on Portland and fixing some of the things we need to get better at. We can use this as an opportunity to work on those things, maybe look at different personnel because it’s always exciting to play the best,” said Olsen. “We want to be smart but we want to put the best team out available out of respect for Ajax and our fans but I am not going to do it and jeopardize someone’s health for the Portland game.”