Ben Olsen is nothing if not humble.
Upon hearing the news he was named coach of the MLS All-Star squad that will take on English side Chelsea FC, the reigning UEFA Champions League winner, at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., on July 25, Olsen didn’t see the revelation as an honor. No, there must be a less-glamorous motive, he thought.
“Apparently they ran out of candidates for this All-Star thing,” the D.C. United coach said. “So they chose the closest guy to save some money on train tickets.”
Although the geographic convenience likely was a factor in Olsen’s appointment Thursday, so was the job he has done with a 9-4-3 United club that, in his season and a half on the full-time job, has gone from worst to first in the Eastern Conference.
“This league has been a huge part of my life, both playing and coaching,” Olsen said. “It’s given me a lot. To represent them on a big stage like this is a real honor for me. But ultimately, this recognition comes from this group of guys and doing a pretty good job up until this point.”
Olsen, 35, will replace Peter Nowak, the boss of the host Philadelphia Union who parted ways with his club last week following a 2-7-2 start.
The youngest coach in MLS, Olsen is leading the All-Stars less than three years after retiring as a player. During his 12-year United career, Olsen played in two All-Star Games.
“When you’re a coach, you have to kind of separate yourself and keep that professionalism,” said captain Dwayne De Rosario, who was traded to United last June. “I thought he was going to be more loosey-goosey when I first came here. And you know, he was business. He was very straightforward, and I admire that.”
Added forward and assistant coach Josh Wolff: “He’s been very reliable in the aspect that he treats guys fairly, he comes with the right mentality for young guys and old guys, and obviously he leans on those guys in different ways.”
Najar named Olympian
Midfielder Andy Najar was named to the under-23 squad that will represent Honduras at this summer’s London Olympics, United announced Thursday.
The 19-year-old, who claimed MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, set up Gerson Rodas’ overtime winner in a 3-2 triumph over El Salvador in Kansas City, Kan., on March 31 that booked Honduras’ ticket to London.
A product of United’s youth academy, Najar has 10 goals and seven assists in 57 MLS appearances, including two helpers in nine matches this season.
The Olympics are an under-23 tournament for men’s soccer, with the exception of three overage players permitted on each 18-man roster.
Juventus game canceled
United on Thursday announced their July 28 friendly against Italian Serie A champion Juventus FC at RFK Stadium has been canceled.
The match was part of a nixed three-game tour by Juventus that also was going to feature matches against Real Madrid in Las Vegas and Paris Saint-Germain in Montreal.
United, who already were selling tickets for the contest, in a statement said they are “in discussions with another, major European team to fill that date.”