Ankle injuries take toll on Olsen

D.C. United's Olsen calls it a day

November 24, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Longtime D.C. United and U.S. team midfielder Ben Olsen retired Tuesday, finally succumbing to the numerous ankle injuries that kept interrupting his career.

Olsen leaves United as one of the most popular players in franchise history. He was the MLS rookie of the year in 1998 and helped the United win the MLS Cup in 1999 and 2004. He was the MVP of the 1999 championship game and a two-time league All-Star.

Olsen also played 37 games for the U.S. from 1998 to 2007.

Olsen said he felt regret, disappointment but also relief that he won't have to play through pain for another year. His ankle problems had reached the point that he sometimes couldn't carry his child up the stairs.

"You come to a crossroads and say, 'At what cost do you come back and play?" Olsen said.

Olsen's star was on the rise when broke his ankle while on loan to English club Nottingham Forest in 2000. He needed four surgeries and more than a year of rehabilitation before he was able to play for United again in July 2002.

Olsen required four more ankle surgeries late in 2007, costing him all but one game of the 2008 season. He returned this year to appear in 20 games with 18 starts. He had one goal, one assist and was a finalist for the league's comeback player of the year award.

Olsen retires in second place in United history in games (221), minutes (17,098) and game-winning goals (13). He ranks third in assists (49) and shots on goal (155) and seventh in goals (29).

Yet, because of the injuries, Olsen said he sometimes wonders "What if?" when thinking about his career.

"What if these ankles never acted up, where would I be?" Olsen said. "Would I have a bigger house? Just kidding."

United's head coaching job is vacant, but Olsen said he is not a candidate.

"I am in no way ready for that role," he said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press