The U.S. men's soccer team is making final preparations for its opening World Cup match June 12 against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. One player looking to make a contribution this year is Ben Olsen of U.S. Major League Soccer's DC United. Olsen is excited to make his first appearance in the World Cup.
Ben Olsen has played on the U.S. national team 33 times in his career and came close to making the World Cup before, but he still could not contain his joy when he got the call in early May from U.S. head coach Bruce Arena.
"My reaction was I ran around like an idiot for 20 minutes because I was so excited," he said.
An eight-year veteran of DC United, Olsen missed the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan because he was still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire 2001 season.
But the 29-year-old Pennsylvania native has put those days behind him.
After a solid Major League Soccer (MLS) season and several national team appearances in 2003, Olsen helped lead DC United to a fourth MLS championship in 2004. He made the national team's Gold Cup roster in 2005, and remains an integral part of DC United's central midfield.
Olsen's appointment to the World Cup team reunites him with Arena. Coach and player share a long history. Arena and Olsen first worked together at the University of Virginia, and again in Arena's final year as head coach of DC United in 1998 - Olsen's rookie season with MLS.
Arena says Olsen's performance at the international and club levels convinced him that Ben could help the World Cup team.
He has had success throughout his career. In 1998, he won MLS Rookie of the Year honors and helped Washington clinch the regional CONCACAF Champions Cup and the InterAmerican Cup in a stunning upset over the Brazilian powerhouse club, Vasco de Gama.
The following year he won Most Valuable Player honors and scored a goal in DC United's (2-0) MLS championship win over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Despite his success, Olsen is realistic about what his likely role will be with the U.S. soccer team in Germany.
"There's a very small chance that I'll be starting and being a big player in this tournament unless things happen," he said. "Hopefully I will get some time at some point, and it will be remarkable, it's going to be great."
Olsen is one of 11 MLS players on the 23-man U.S. roster, and the only DC United player to make the World Cup team.
He says he is looking forward to representing the United States.
"It's an honor, it really is," he said. "Unexpected for sure. I've played this game a long time and this is what you play for. To get an opportunity to like this, and it's a special time for me, for sure."
Ben Olsen has made himself a vital part of the MLS and DC United, and is seeking his chance to make an impact at the 2006 World Cup.
The U.S. men begin their pre-World Cup training camp on Wednesday,May 10 in Cary, North Carolina. They play warm-up matches against Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia.
The team departs for Germany on June 1, and its first World Cup match of the tournament is June 12 against the Czech Republic, followed by contests with Italy and Ghana.