DC United: Ben Olsen’s tactics will land him in trouble

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Paul Arriola /

Ben Olsen’s tactics are undermining DC United’s season. If he does not change his ways, then they could well proceed to undermine his career in the capital.

Ben Olsen’s starting tactics and in-game management again lack imagination or purpose. Players like Nick DeLeon are seemingly getting worse as they stay in Olsen’s system. Washington D.C. is not a naive soccer market. Olsen’s teams play some of the least appealing brands of bend-then-boot soccer. It would be a decent bet that he never coaches a game in the new Audi Park.

Playing away for the second straight week, Ben Olsen set up his team in a deep-lying block yet again. In order to counter-attack the team would have to hit Yamil Asad on the wing or have Darren Mattocks holding up possession and making runs onto balls played into space. The defenders could not afford to lose their nerve or positional discipline for any chance for extended periods of the game.

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Atlanta had 53% possession on the stat sheet, but by the eye-test, it was far greater than that. They were at ease in possession, while every spell from DC United seemed rushed even when not under pressure. Atlanta had a flow to their play; DC United players seemed to not know where their teammates would even be running from, much less where to send the pass.

Per Stephen Goff’s article:

"“Not good,” Mattocks said in assessing the performance. “We’ve got to do a better job trying to play. We’ve got to figure something out because, for the last two games, we’ve pretty much sat back.”Added Brillant: “We have to find a good solution. We have the ball but we don’t go forward.” Tough to play with all those thoughts."

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DCU played with more possession in the second half, but it was not positive possession. Atlanta came out more conservative after the half to protect their lead, clearly learning from last year where they often attacked for 90 minutes-a-game and lost points as a result.

It did not take long for DC United to become unorganized and give up the second goal. Julian Gressel came down DC’s left channel, had far too much time on the ball, and a simple ball to Miguel Almiron for his scorcher effectively ended the game.

DC United only had one shot on target, a late Mattocks spoiler. This spoiled it for both fans, with Atlanta supporters ruing the lack of a clean sheet and DC United fans now worrying whether Olsen will give Mattocks at least two or three more ‘faith’ and ‘consistency’ starts. Really though, there are not many options. Even Patrick Mullins is officially listed as a midfielder, so DC had no forwards on the bench.

Last week, Mullins did not play very well. This week, not much could be expected as Olsen sent him on in the 89th  minute trailing 3-1. What could he possibly do to impress or win points? Olsen waiting until the 89th minute to send on an attacking player lends to the theory he has no real ideas on how to approach, manage, or chase a game.

Olsen first substitution was to introduce Luciano Acosta in the 62nd minute. He did exactly the same job as Zoltan Stieber, doing little to change the game in United’s favor. It could be argued Olsen’s getting 18-year-old Christopher Durkin some minutes and protecting a flailing Paul Arriola was the first sensible coaching decision of the season, and it came at 3-0 down.

The start of DC United’s season has been disappointing and the atmosphere around the team seems sour. Some in DC are hoping for a summer savior in the transfer market. With this leadership, could any player really make a difference for this team? Would any player want to join a team rumbling with revolt?

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Olsen claims he is seeing “amazing” and “wonderful” things despite the mediocre results. If the fans don’t see these positives, or at least an ugly result, Olsen will surely hear their displeasure. Will he hear the same from ownership? Will ownership want to pay two coaches and a DP before the new stadium opens? Olsen is only safe if they decide to wait until next year.