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Davis' Discussions: The Second Coming Of Ben Olsen

By Noah Davis

On November 20, after 12 years as a member of D.C. United, Ben Olsen announced his decision to hang up the studs that helped him win Major League Soccer's Rookie of the Year award (1998), two MLS Cups (1999, 2004), and be "part of and experience basically almost every game you could experience in the game of soccer."

Two weeks into his retirement, the former U.S. international who earned 37 caps and participated in the 2006 World Cup as well as the Copa America, the Gold Cup, and the Olympics, sounds content with his choice.

"With each day that goes by I feel more and more at ease with the decision," Olsen told Goal.com over the phone on Thursday afternoon, adding, "Next year, I think early when the games start, I'll really get a sense of where I'm at in this whole deal and whether or not I made the right decision. But I'm pretty sure I did."

For the 32-year-old who finished his MLS career with exactly 200 starts but missed all or part of five seasons due to injury, the mind was willing to continue playing but ultimately, the body -- specifically the ankles, which endured nine surgeries -- couldn't handle the pounding of another season. Still, the decision to retire wasn't easy.

"I wavered back and forth from the end of the season up until I made the decision," Olsen said. "In fact, most of those weeks, I was convinced I was coming back."

As the 1999 MLS Cup MVP enters a permanent off-season as a player, he must decide how to occupy himself. Possibilities include landing a coaching position and Olsen -- who thinks, "We've steadily, slowly gotten better as a league in the style of play, but I don't think it's that great of a change, I really don't." -- admits that from a young age he's noted the successful and unsuccessful techniques of his many managers. While he isn't interested in the vacant head coaching job at his old club, he'd consider coming on board as an assistant if the conditions were right for all parties.

"The coaching stuff, being involved in the game, intrigues me," he said. "I don't necessarily think it's something I'm going to jump into and be the greatest at, but it's something I'd like to learn."

He hopes to have the next step figured out by the new year, but in the immediate future the man who played 51 minutes in the U.S.'s loss to Ghana during the 2006 World Cup plans to watch the draw on Friday. Although he won't be on the field in South Africa, the Harrisburg, Pennslyvania native sounds genuinely excited that it's almost time for the quadrennial tournament and hopes the Americans buck the recent trend of being drawn into extremely difficult groups.

"It's such a crapshoot," Olsen said with the tone of someone who's gone through the drama before. "If you wish it one way, it's gonna go the other. Those things have a tendency to be a little brutal on us as of late."

Even if the Stars and Stripes end up in the Group of Death with the likes of Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, and Denmark, Olsen knows he'll be a spectator. He also watched as Nick Rimando -- who the midfielder, an ordained minister, married -- and Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup. After jokingly claiming that he taught the RSL netminder to save penalty kicks, he explained he was happy to see his former teammate hoist the trophy.  

"If I wasn't going to win it, I wanted Nicky Rimando to win it," he said. "That's how much I like that guy. He was a great teammate, the perfect guy to have back there. We miss him at D.C. United for sure."

It's fair to say that the club that calls RFK Stadium home will also miss Olsen. After a dozen years, the tenacious player will certainly long for the pitch at some point during the coming months, but he knows it's been a great run.

"You know, I was amazed looking back at [on my career]," he said. "I was like, 'Wow, I really did a couple things.'"

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.

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