While for most people the arrival of March means looking ahead to whether the Nationals and Orioles will lose 95 or 97 games, for others, it beckons the start of the season for D.C. United, the most successful franchise in Major League Soccer.
Entering their 16th season of play, one of the charter members of the league and four-time MLS champion United have much to look forward to as the 2011 campaign begins on March 19 at RFK Stadium against Columbus. After winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield (given to the team with the best regular season record) in 2006 and 2007, the Black and Red have fallen off the last three seasons, with 10th place finishes in 2008 and 2009, before ultimately bottoming out last year with a 6-20-4 record, settling them firmly in last place.
The excitement for 2011 comes with the first full season under head coach Ben Olsen. After the release of Curt Onalfo as head coach following a 3-12-3 start, Olsen took the reins of United and turned the team around considerably, finishing the season with a still-disappointing 3-8-1 record, but enough of a turnaround was shown that team management felt it appropriate to retain Olsen. Not included in the record was a Cinderella run to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a tournament open to nearly all American professional, semi-professional, and amateur clubs. Olsen, 33, nicknamed “The General”, had an illustrious playing career for D.C., scoring 29 goals in 221 games for the Black and Red, as well as suiting up for the United States national team 37 times, including seeing action in the 2006 World Cup. Continue reading