As head coach of DC United, Ben Olsen knows full well that talent is everything. But he is also fully aware that talent without discipline, desire and dedication is worthless. He manages supremely talented Wayne Rooney at the club, after all. But when you can’t call on your best player — Rooney was side-lined with breathing problems — you have to dig deep and find a way of winning. And that way, ordinarily, means working harder than your opponents for starters. This, to Olsen’s credit, was done.
While United prepare to lose former England and Manchester United striker Rooney to a player-coach role at Derby County in the Championship in England, Olsen rallied his troops and managed to use old fashioned hard work to engineer a 2-1 Major League Soccer (MLS) victory over the LA Galaxy — even with an in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic — on Sunday at Audi Field in front of a passionate crowd of 20,006 fans.
The win keeps United in third spot in the MLS Eastern Conference and goes some way to lay to rest the only-too-recent memory of a 5-1 defeat to the league leaders Philadelphia Union last time of asking. Goals from Paul Arriola and Lucas Rodriguez handed victory to the home side with the visitors chalking up their strike through the lively Fabio Alvarez.
Olsen was rightly happy to snare the win — and at the same time repel Ibrahimovic, who failed to notch a goal despite having an MLS record 14 shots. And a delighted Olsen said:
“We envisioned the game playing out this way, with some of the changes we needed to make. But the effort and the commitment from that group was terrific in this game. It was as good a group effort as we’ve had all year. And sometimes that’s enough. The line-up changed throughout the week. It was a long week. There was a lot going on behind the scenes. And to cap a real dynamic week — to cap it off with a win, it’s a special game.”
As for Arriola, who helped himself to a goal in the match, he was happy to admit he retained a focus on his game as much as the team ethic. He added:
“I think when it comes down to it, it’s just about doing your job. I think when you put a player like myself in a position that requires a lot of work, there’s no excuses, there’s no complaints from me. I’m going to do it. I thought it was a difficult game, yes. There was a lot of running, there was a lot of time without the ball. But we made it worth it.”
Meanwhile, Philadelphia Union stayed top of the pile with a 2-1 win at home to Houston Dynamo and Atlanta United maintained the chase of the top spot with a 2-1 victory over New York City FC. The season has eight games remaining — should be a cracking conclusion.