- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

When D.C. United star Ben Olsen was replaced at halftime of the U.S. team's 1-0 loss to Argentina at Miami's Orange Bowl last week, things looked ominous for the injury-prone midfielder. Rumors quickly spread that the former Virginia ace had reinjured his right ankle. After all, Olsen had undergone four ankle operations in the last two years and missed almost two seasons.
"My ankle is fine," Olsen said Thursday. "[The substitution] had nothing to do with it. I was taken out, and I'll leave it at that."
His ankle is sore, but Olsen says that after all the surgery, pain was expected. Following the U.S. game he did see a doctor but noted that he does so regularly.
"I have to manage myself better," Olsen said. "That's why I didn't travel for the Jamaica game. It was decided that I rest before the start of preseason play with [D.C.] United."
One publication even linked United's recent acquisition of Annapolis midfielder Devon Barclay from the San Jose Earthquakes to Olsen's fitness, or lack of it.
"That's totally erroneous and insulting," United coach Ray Hudson said. "Benny is the king of the castle and will be our right-sided midfielder. He's just a bit sore from the pounding he's been taking."
Hudson said the arrival of Barclay and the possible addition of former Colorado midfielder Joe DiGiamarino is for backup purposes when Olsen and Bobby Convey are called up for national team duty.
Olsen joins United tomorrow in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the whole team is gathered for the first time this year for a week of games against college teams, including Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Former United captain John Harkes also will train with the team. The games will determine whether recent draft picks like Hayden Woodworth and John Swann will make the roster.
"Every position will be highly contested," Hudson said.
The club also has invited Republic of Georgia defender Ioseb Devidze, 22, and French midfielder Simon Toselli, 23, to challenge for the team's "youth international spot."
So far Hudson is very pleased with United's progress. He says Alecko Eskandarian is "looking superlative," Hristo Stoitchkov "never ceases to amaze" and Marco Etcheverry is looking "as fast as a rat in a drainpipe."
Meanwhile, D.C. United is offering tryouts for its boys and girls youth teams next Saturday and Sunday. Call the club for information.
Off the Marc
Washington Post metro columnist Marc Fisher riled local soccer fans in a recent online chat when he belittled D.C. United and the Washington Freedom's use of RFK Stadium.
"To reserve a stadium that was built for baseball on behalf of a couple of teams that draw pathetically small crowds for a sport that will never make it as a commercial venture in this country is just silly," Fisher said. "If we land a baseball franchise, those soccer teams can go play on those nice new youth fields in Gaithersburg and all 29 of their fans will be happy."
To set the record straight, United averaged 16,519 fans and the Freedom 9,297 last season at RFK. The biggest crowd ever at RFK (58,012) was for an Olympic qualifying soccer game in 1996. RFK would have been a very costly, cold empty shell since the Redskins left if it hadn't been for soccer.
Tough draw
The U.S. men's team was drawn into Group B with Brazil, Cameroon and Turkey at the sixth FIFA Confederations Cup from June18 to 29 in France. Group A consists of France, Japan, New Zealand and Colombia.
The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals. The final takes place June29 in Paris.
The U.S. team has played in two previous Confederations Cup, finishing third at the inaugural event in 1992 and second in 1999 in Mexico.
Peace Cup
The Los Angeles Galaxy will represent North America at the World Peace King Cup in South Korea from July15 to 22.
The biennial event, promoted by Brazilian star Pele, will involve eight clubs from five continents. Reigning Korean champs Songnam Chunma will represent Asia. AS Roma (Italy), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Lens (France) and Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) are from Europe. The Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) will fill out the card. Each team will play three games in group play, with the two winners meeting in the final. The draw for the event will be in May.
The winner will pocket $2million and the runner-up $500,000. Proceeds from the games will be donated to charities in the developing world.

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