[MLS] This probably isn't what D.C. United fans expected and certainly not what they wanted when they clamored for the removal of former head coach Tom Soehn. In late December, United hired former D.C. player and ex-U.S. national team assistant coach Curt Onalfo to replace Soehn, whose record in league play was 36-31-25. The club fired Onalfo Wednesday and named assistant coach Ben Olsen to take over a team burdened with the league’s worst record at 3-12-3.
“This was a difficult and painful decision,” United President and CEO Kevin Payne said. amp;ldquo;Curt is an outstanding person and a fine coach. This has certainly been a trying season, made more so by a number of factors outside of anyone's control. This decision is not about placing blame, but about looking forward. Recent performances have convinced us that we need to make a change at the top for the team to improve the remainder of this season, for 2011 and beyond.”
United plays Columbus in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal Sept. 1, so there’s something tangible for Olsen and the players to shoot for in what otherwise has been a disastrous season. Olsen, 33, a former U.S. international, spent most of his playing career with United before retiring last fall and taking a job as assistant coach. That he was regarded as the team’s spiritual leader during much of his tenure is mitigated by the inept team he inherits.
United has scored the fewest goals (12) and conceded the most (31) in MLS this season. It hasn’t won in the last six games and Academy product Andy Najar, 17, leads the team with three goals. Injuries have affected the team’s performance, but players added during the offseason – striker Danny Allsopp, midfielder Cristian Castillo, and goalkeeper Troy Perkins – didn’t provide the necessary upgrade in either quality nor results.
Some of Onalfo’s tactical and personnel decisions didn’t pan out. Moving Santino Quaranta from the wing to a central attacking midfield position failed, as did efforts to convert Rodney Wallace into an MLS-caliber left back. Wallace suffered a broken leg in June, thus depriving United of a very promising young player. Another in that category, Chris Pontius, has struggled through a painful frustrating sophomore slump.
The Olsen Era begins Saturday against the Revs at Gillette Stadium. One of the most likable, accomplished and determined men in league history is now in charge of a team far removed from its own glory days.