Ben Olsen officially retires

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One of the longest tenured MLS players called it a career today, as D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen officially announced his retirement from professional soccer at a press conference at RFK Stadium.

The 32-year-old played through pain in his surgically repaired ankles in 2009, relying on medication to make it through games. Olsen managed to start in 18 league games this season, but acknowedged the strain was too much to keep his career going. Olsen was an important element this past season to a team that featured a heavy mix of veterans and younger players. Despite losing a step on the pitch his leadership and veteran presence in the locker room could be seen after every match.

Olsen retires with a number of individual and team awards, including the 1998 Rookie of the Year, 1999 MLS Cup MVP, to go with three MLS Cup trophies, and a 2007 MLS Best XI. His void leaves a gap in the D.C. midfield, one of the many questions hanging over the club this off-season.

What do you think of Olsen retiring? Sad to see him go? What was your favorite memory of him?

Share your thoughts below.

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63 Responses to Ben Olsen officially retires

  1. Sam says:

    man, i still have his “card” from when he played at University of Virginia under Bruce…what a crew that was back in the day. Harkes, Reyna, Agoos, Olson…

  2. Al17 says:

    This Fire fan wishes him well. He’s had a good career and deserves a proper testimonial next season from DC United.

  3. HoneyHell says:

    He was a good utility player in his day. but injuries reduced his effectiveness to the point he needed to move on.

  4. 4now says:

    Great heart. Great player for the league.

  5. Seth says:

    A true United legend! The heart and the soul of the team. He may have been limited later in his career, but his tenacity and heart drove the players around him. He is one of my all time favorite players and I will miss having him on the pitch, but I know he will make a great coach one day. Who knows where his career might have gone if hadn’t got injuried while playing for Nottingham? Thanks Benny for all the wonderful memories.

  6. Dan says:

    I’ve been a United fan from the get go, but I never liked Ben Olsen. He always seemed like a dirty player, who would constantly skirt the line between gamesmanship and unsportsmanship.

  7. tom v says:

    very few players can go from being the flair winger, having major ankle surgery, to transforming into a defensive midfielder, while also starring in a dicks sporting goods commercial and having an attractive wife (at least in the commercial)…great player, great career. let’s not forget how a great of a job he did slotting in in the world cup when red cards came to haunt us

  8. Mark says:

    Benny was a good player and he will be missed. He was a solid ambassador for MLS, had a very productive career despite having to remake himself after injuries in 1999, and he stood out enough to earn a spot on the 2006 World Cup roster (and some playing time in Germany as well).

    I’ll miss watching him play.

  9. Mark says:

    New coach for DC?

  10. AD22 says:

    Another one of Nowak’s assistants in Philly?

  11. Arcticrules says:

    I hope he moves to broadcasting. He has a good personality for it and would be a vast improvement to either ESPN’s or Fox’ s team.

  12. Tony in Quakeland says:

    A good guy. Best of luck to him and thanks for helping grow the sport in this country.

  13. TBrodie says:

    Once he got to pose naked on the pitch, he had nothing else to prove.

  14. geoffholm says:

    my fave moment was the home game last summer when the galaxy. Barra Brava held up that sign, “Ben Olsen: Heart of a Lion” with the big painted lion. He came in later in the match for what many thought would be his last home game at RFK. EVERYONE was on their feet for him. Benny Olsen will be missed. he truley was the heartbeat of the team. Please come back and coach DC…please.

  15. Really enjoyed watching him mature and grow into a vet. Love that he always battled back from injuries. Tons of heart. Good engine.

  16. GLS says:

    In his early days Ben Olsen was an up and coming star with the potential to be a regular for the US on the wing before injuries robbed him of his speed and attacking threat. Yet he completely reinvented himself.

    During his veteran days, he was much more than a “good utility player.” Few players in the league had as much heart and grit. My favorite DC United player of all time, no one got the RFK crowd going the way he could. His hat trick against NY will probably remain my favorite moment.

  17. baquito alyeska says:

    Will always be one of my faves. I saw him a few times at RFK and “Heart of a Lion” is exactly right. He came away with almost every 50/50 ball. Hope he finds a coaching spot with United or maybe a broadcast mic.

  18. aaron says:

    As a Crew fan and rival that hated the Golden Boy, I must say that I have had much respect for him over the last couple years. He was a great player he will be missed. Hope that he has great health for many years. He would be an interesting fit for TV, and would be be so much better than 90% of what is on there now. Good Luck Ben.

  19. wouldacoulda says:

    In 1999-2000, he was a sure fire starter on the National team. He could fly up and down the flanks. Shoulda been a star on the 2002 WC team.

    Cant be winger without ankles though.

  20. I was at that game too, sporting my LA jersey, and even I couldn’t help but get up and applaud the guy. Awesome player, played as well as we could ask for at the world cup and will definitely go down as an MLS/DC legend.

  21. Polish Wonder says:

    I remember seeing a young Olsen playing for DC in Columbus, and I was impressed by his speed and tenacity. He was really going somewhere before the injury. He was beginning to make an impact on the Nats, albeit largely as a sub, if I recall correctly. He was more impressive for the Nats and DC than Adu was/has been, that is for sure, but without all the fame.

  22. NJ Guy No Longer Stuck in DC says:

    Now that Olsen has retired, Ben’s Chili Bowl is the only thing I miss from DC. Best of luck Benny, you left it on the pitch every game.

  23. Jimmie Johnson (the one your mom likes) says:

    My favorite moment was from earlier this year when he took Wells Thompson of the Revs out to the woodshed and smacked his bych azz around by scoring the goal and then roaring right in lil ol’ Well’s face. Perfect.

  24. Will says:

    Benny’s the man. A UVa and DC legend who will be missed

  25. EA says:

    Benny unleashed a screamer from distance in a game during the run-up to World Cup ’06.

    That’s my favorite memory.

    I’m now reaching a point in MY life where guys who I was introduced to as an “up and comer”, is now “old and washed up.”

    That’s both enlightening and depressing.

  26. midwest says:

    not sure what to say… i’m a bit sad to see him go, but thankful for all he brought to the team and league. the man is legend.

    here’s hoping that he stays with united in another capacity.

  27. EA says:

    ….and I don’t even know what tense I was using there. Yikes. You get my drift.

  28. PetedeLA says:

    I remember seeing him come on the scene as a 20 year old. He really stuck out for me. I lost track of him, then saw him playing as a 30 year old man, clearly missing the pace of his younger years. Then I read up on his injuries and I now realize… he could have been one of the great players of this era had the injuries not slowed him down.

    But when I see Ben Olsen, I don’t think he cares much about “shoulda, coulda, woulda”. He’s a guy who rarely leaves much on the pitch after a game. The league will miss him.
    Does MLS do farewell games?

  29. Chris in Belfast says:

    So then, with Ben Olsen there are no 50/50 balls?

  30. Beckster says:

    My favorite moment as a fan was being at RFK when he scored the hat trick against the Red Bulls. How great was that?

    My favorite moment for him was when he got to play in the World Cup. To cap a career by playing in a World Cup after everything that happened to him was just fantastic and he has said the highlight of a career.

    I hope he stays on in DC as a coach. I think he will be fantastic. Ben can do anything except for maybe act – for all of us who had to watch that Dick’s sportings good commercial last season, we’d appreciate you staying away from Hollywood!

  31. andy in ohio says:

    That was pretty great, one of the moments that stood out to me this season. My dad doesn’t follow soccer much, but he knows I don’t care for DCU and he couldn’t figure out why I was cheering like crazy after that goal! Best of luck Ben and congratulations on a great career, whether its broadcasting, coaching, or management I’m sure he’ll be successful.

  32. Citronomics says:

    Saw Benny come into the league with United and he really combined the “grit” aspect of MLS with tremendous pace, good skill on the ball, ability and desire to beat defenders 1-on-1 but most of all he left everything on the pitch each time.

    I second PetedeLA’s call for a farewell game!

  33. JoeW says:

    1. Ben Olsen (in the last years of his career) is the kind of player that would have started for every team in MLS and would have made every team in MLS better. Love him or hate him, he not only ran not-stop and viewed every loose ball as his, he was a coach on the field, was an instigator, knew the refs well enough to know what you were likely to get away with. I’m sure the vast majority of opposing fans hated him intensely for being a cry-baby, fouling, pushing the limits, gamesmanship and yet every fan in MLS would love to have a guy on their team who bleeds the colors, does all the small detail stuff (that Nowak loved) that makes a good team a winning team. And most of all, Olsen came up big when it mattered most. He was absolutely a gamer. I’ll never forget how, in the run-up to the WC and Arena was looking at Olsen, Zavagnin and another player or two for the last spot on the roster, all the others too turns looking bad and Olsen just jacked up his play. In a single word, Olsen was a competitor. And unless we’re talking about a Pele or Maradona or Cruyff, to say someone is a competitor is probably the highest compliment you can give any professional athlete—that they show up every day and give their physical and mental all, that they make their team better, that they bleed for their teammates, that they don’t let hubris or pride or ego get in the way of the result.

    2. DCU will hire Olsen as an assistant coach. They’ll hire a coach first and then Benny will be announced as an assistant.

  34. golfstrom says:

    Really good player, had the potential to be great and a key player on USMNT if not for the ankle injuries. Great intelligence on the ball and great service. Hard-nosed player, always gave 100%. People calling him merely a “good utility player” have no idea.

  35. madmax says:

    Will he join Nowak and Sons of Ben?

  36. ak48 says:

    A favorite moment: Guadalajara, 1999, vs. Germany in the Confed Cup. Benny absolutely annihilates Lothar Matthaus on a 50-50 ball, sending the 38 year-old legend into a frenzied hissy fit at the referee (and sending the Mexican fans around me into uncontrolled fits of hilarity). Later in the game Benny scores the opening goal — pure class — in what turns into a 2-0 U.S. victory. Great stuff. Good luck Ben!

  37. afrim says:

    goodbye to a true thug and hack job. Had he played in any other league he woud have been suspended every other game. Adios Ben

  38. jig says:

    loved ben olsen. but for those recommending him for the broadcast booth I offer this little bit of analysis he gave us in the run up to the 2006 WC. ahahahha amazing.

    link to

  39. Beckster says:

    Thanks jig – that brings back great memories from 2006. We are going to miss him.

  40. WOW says:

    To quote Rep. Barkey Frank (D-MA), “on what planet do you spend most of your time?”

    You are not a United fan if you do not like Ben Olsen, because Ben Olsen IS United. Regardless of whether or not he was too aggressive, he was the heart and soul of the team and tried harder than anyone I’ve ever seen in any sport ever.

  41. kfly says:


  42. vasco says:

    thanks for everything Ben, sorry to see you go, but I understand completely.

    Family is more important than soccer.

    You are the heart soul of this team, please stick around in some capacity.

  43. DC United coach. Jason Kreis retired mid-season to become coach of RSL and now a few years later, he’s a MLS Champion coach.

  44. WengerIsFrenchForDouche says:

    Am I seriously the ONLY one (except for Dan, from earlier today) that doesn’t care?!?!?!? THIS GUY WAS NOT A LEGEND…he is as dirty as they come, and the game is better off without him.

    Ben Olsen is soccer’s answer to Michael Jackson – an awful person and a bad influence for the kids…but now that he’s gone, everyone, all of a sudden, seems to love him.

    Later, Dirty Benny…go nurse those nagging injuries. Punk.

  45. Metro-211-7 says:

    My FIRST GREAT memory of Ben Olson was in November/December of 1998 when DC United (with a somewhat short bench), still under Bruce Arena, bean the all-mighty CR Vasco da Gama of Brazil.

    Ben, we will miss you!

    Be well,

  46. DadRyan says:

    WengerIsFrenchForDouche is a stinky, mildewy, Douche bag.

    The Lion King Rules!

  47. Dan says:

    Ben Olsen always helped his team win, but he also made every soccer game he played in uglier, and for that I will never like him.

  48. e says:

    That was an amazing moment!

  49. e says:

    Heart of a lion, indeed. We’ll miss him. My son got to attend a clinic with DC United and Ben was fantastic with the kids – same during an autograph session that we took my nephew to. Liked him even more for that :)

  50. EA Scott says:

    A real legend; he will be missed; but I’m sure he’s got a great coaching career ahead of him. He’ll be the type of coach that the players really respect…

  51. Judging Amy says:

    Exactly right. I’d bet a lot of money Ben sleeps better at night than Antonio Cassano. He made all he could out of what he was given. He’ll be missed.

  52. Judging Amy says:

    Michael Jackson allegedly molested children…are you trying to analogize this to Ben Olsen’s allegedly dirty play on the soccer field as evidence that he was a bad person? Do you have a brain?

  53. DC Josh says:

    Sad to see him go. He’ll be around DC though, either with United or with the Players Union in Bethesda, MD.

    My favorite memory is when he made his 2008 debut against the Galaxy in a 4-1 waxing in front of a packed stadium.

    Andrew Jacobson is the man who will step up into his position. Clyde Simms is a great holding midfielder, but I really like Jacobson, he has better vision and technical ability.

  54. DC Josh says:

    Don’t drink and text.

  55. Josh D says:

    Fantastic player, my favorite since Harkes. I hope he sticks around to show the young’ns how it’s done! Met him once, great guy and willing to sign hats and shirts for the kids. Enjoy the rest of our life, just don’t wander too far from the Capitol.

  56. mwc says:

    I believe that DCU’s lack of success recently is directly tied to Ben Olsen not being able to play as much. He was the engine of the team and no adequate replacement has been found.

  57. DadRyan says:

    Anyone who doesn’t like Ben Olsen is just jealous they didn’t have them in their team. There’s a reason why every single one of his coaches and the players he played against and with have nothing but praise for him. I’d take their analysis and opinion any day over some schlub’s on a soccer blog.

  58. Mark says:

    As a DC fan growing up my favorite players were always john harkes and ben olsen. My favorite memory is when I got to go to rfk and see the usa play el salvador in what I wanna say was 02. Getting to see benny net that header for the USMNT in his home stadium was pretty cool.

  59. MVK says:

    he will now have time to get Dawson a new jersey…

  60. NJ Guy No Longer Stuck in DC says:

    Couldn’t agree more. When you saw him play in person you really learned to appreciate him and his leadership. The guy willed his teammates to play better. My wife paid him the ultimate compliment in the one game she saw him play: “Who is that guy? THAT guy, she said deserves a raise.”

  61. WCUSC says:

    Class act all the way.

    Hey Ben. Come be Nowak’s asst in Philly. You can re-live your FC Delco days and play out the string with a top O30 team in West Chester. We have 3 former USL pros on the roster. We’ll even take it easy on your minutes while those ankles get well.

  62. Bennyfan says:

    We’ve been a fan of Ben’s since he first came on DC United and my daughter was just starting club soccer. He gave us the honor as his guests of seeing him play twice in the early days in LA against the Galaxy, twice in Chicago against the Fire and in RFK where he welcomed my daughter’s entire club soccer team from Chicago. He’s a true soccer hero in every aspect of the word and an inspiration to the youth of today who want to excel in this sport. He was never dirty just heart and aggression. Good Luck Ben. You’re a true gentlemen. You’ll excel in anything you do. You’re an amazing man and soccer player. Thanks for the memories.