- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

D.C. United’s Ben Olsen, fresh from playing with the U.S. national team, watched his teammates defeat the Columbus Crew 5-1 on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. The veteran midfielder stopped by to say goodbye to his club before leaving the next day for the World Cup in Germany.

Olsen hopes he doesn’t have to wear a United jersey for a while. That, of course, depends on how well the U.S. team does against the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana in the opening round.

Although he’s a key starter for United, Olsen’s plays a different role with the U.S. team.

“One’s out on the field playing and one’s sitting on that bench,” he said. “It’s a very different role. It’s an interesting adjustment from playing every game to being a guy who has to imagine scenarios of how he’s going to get into the game off the bench, whether it’s because of injuries, [yellow or red] cards, or maybe being a defensive guy who can just come in late if we have a lead.”

As a holding midfielder, Olsen is behind Claudio Reyna, Pablo Mastroeni and John O’Brien on the depth chart. But at the World Cup, where there’s the potential to play seven contested games in a month, players can get injured and formations change depending on the opponents.

“The World Cup is a long tournament and a lot can happen, and a lot did happen in the last cup,” Olsen said. “I have to be ready for so many situations.”

At the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, U.S. coach Bruce Arena used 19 of his 22 players and only six players played in all five of the games as the Americans reached the quarterfinals. Arena was forced to make adjustments when defender Steve Cherundolo injured his knee before the first game. So Olsen likely will see some playing time.

But right now, he’s trying not to be overwhelmed at the prospect of playing on soccer’s biggest stage and being watched by millions around the world.

“You tell yourself, it is just soccer, and you’ve played in a number of games,” Olsen said. “But these games will be different. They will be faster. You are in the World Cup for a reason, to play against the best. If I get a chance to do that, I’m going to take it as a great opportunity and a challenge. The nerves will be there, but they keep you sharp.”

Olsen already has missed five United games preparing for the World Cup with the U.S. team, but his club has done well despite his absence.

Red-hot United (6-1-3, 21 points), which leads the Eastern Conference by eight points and is on a four-game unbeaten streak, plays host to the New England Revolution (3-3-2, 11 points) tonight at RFK Stadium.

The Revolution will be led by former Maryland star striker Taylor Twellman.

World Cup on radio — XM Satellite Radio will broadcast 56 of the 64 games and offer 24-hour coverage of the finals on channel 148 beginning Monday. Local sports broadcaster Dave Johnson, who does play-by-play for United games, and former United defender Jeff Agoos, will be among the key on-air personalities.

Referee out of finals — Arena and the American team won’t be sad that Jamaican referee Peter Prendergast will not be officiating in the World Cup. Prendergast injured his knee and has been sent home from Germany.

Prendergast in July of 2004 awarded Costa Rica a penalty kick on a nonexistent hand-ball on Greg Berhalter in a crucial World Cup qualifier. The Ticos converted the PK and the United States lost 2-1. Following the game, Arena was suspended three games by FIFA for his protesting of the call, and Reyna earned a two-match ban.

Big injuries — Brazil midfielder Edmilson is out of the World Cup with a right knee injury. The 29-year-old utility player, who helped Barcelona win the Champions League, suffered a knee injury in practice Monday. He will be replaced by Mineiro of Sao Paulo. And key Czech Republic midfielder Vladimir Smicer won’t be facing the U.S. team June 12. He’s has a thigh injury.

MLS update — The Kansas City Wizards have acquired Dutch standout Dave van den Bergh from Dutch premier division club FC Utrecht.


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