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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 12/6/17

Ben Olsen: ‘Jumping into the fire’; former MAHS soccer standout ready to lead MLS’s D.C. United

Fifteen years ago, a broken wrist ended Ben Olsen’s high school soccer career at Middletown …

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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 edition of the Press & Journal


Ben Olsen: ‘Jumping into the fire’; former MAHS soccer standout ready to lead MLS’s D.C. United

Fifteen years ago, a broken wrist ended Ben Olsen’s high school soccer career at Middletown Area High School in his senior year.

He watched his teammates finish the last half of their final season from the sidelines.

Injuries would strike Olsen again in 2002. On his way to being one of the most successful players in Major League Soccer history, Olsen suffered a gruesome ankle injury while playing as a transfer for Nottingham Forest of England. The injury appeared to put his playing career at risk.

It would have ended the career of most soccer players.

But not Ben Olsen.

The 1995 Middletown graduate, known for his resiliency on the pitch, battled back to play again in 2002 and in 2004. He won his second MLS Cup with D.C. United, where he started and finished the game in a 3-2 win.

Olsen played five seasons after that fateful year, but the injury bug that nagged him since his final year of high school caught him again after the 2007 season in which he scored his first ever hat-trick in a 7-goal, 7-assist campaign, regarded as his best professional season.

“When you go through injuries it’s never easy, and when you go through long injuries like I went through, you get a different perspective on the game,” Olsen said in a telephone interview.

“It was hard to watch the games and sit out twice, but I grew as soccer player, not physically, but mentally,” he said. “I was a smarter soccer player. I had a higher soccer IQ.”

Olsen played just one match in the 2008 season, and after an injury-plagued 2009 season, the career Olsen built on the foundation of perseverance, grit, and determination came to a close when he announced his retirement on Oct. 20, 2009.

Now, a new chapter in Olsen’s career is beginning.

After a 13-year career with one MLS team — D.C. United — Olsen, who was named interim head coach of the franchise in August, had the interim dropped from his title. He was named the head of D.C. United on Nov. 29.

“Two weeks ago, I was fully prepared to go back to my role as assistant coach,” said Olsen, who was an assistant immediately following his career, and moved to the interim role after the departure of Curt Onalfo.

“I guess at the 11th hour the front office had a change of heart, and decided to go with me. I’m flattered and excited for the opportunity.”

Olsen becomes the seventh head coach in D.C. United history, replacing Onalfo, who skippered the team for just one season.

“Ben fully understands the team concept. I feel he’ll make a great head coach,” said Bob Stitt, his high school head coach at Middletown.

“He progressed as a leader every year in high school. When he broke his wrist his senior year, he was the biggest leader on the team, even from the bench, and he always was helping other guys in practice, even though he couldn’t play,” said Stitt.

Olsen’s distinguished playing career included a Soccer America Collegiate Player of the Year in 1997, two MLS cups, two MLS All-Star selections awards, an MLS MVP award in 1999, five appearances on the U.S. Olympic team in the 2000 Australian games, and 37 appearances on the U.S. Men’s team, including an appearance in the 2006 World Cup finals.

Train station headed to West Main Street in Middletown

ion will be built on West Main Street at the site of the former A.P. Green warehouse, the state Department of Transportation announced on Monday, Dec. 6.

By the end of 2013, you should be boarding and stepping off Amtrak trains at two new platforms on each side of the tracks at West Main and Ann streets, said Toby Fauver, deputy director of local and area transportation for PennDOT.

A bridge will cross over the tracks to connect the platforms. Vending machines will sell tickets to travelers, possibly at a convenience store next to the station that could be built by developer Jim Nardo, who owns the site.

Nardo and PennDOT have reached a sales agreement that will transfer a portion of the property for $2.3 million. The state had budgeted $32 million in state and federal money for the project, though the actual cost may be less, said Fauver.

Don’t expect a large station, like the old relics built in the heyday of railroads. It will be platforms served by elevators, perhaps with a small shop serving travelers, said Fauver.

No design has been drawn. PennDOT has hired a designer, but intends to hold a public meeting in early 2011 to solicit ideas from the public on how it should look.

Local officials hailed the new station as a catalyst for development and an improved economy in Middletown.

‘Down the tubes': Eagle Heights residents say development will destroy character of their neighborhood

Sonja Miller’s quiet neighborhood on a hill overlooking West Main Street could soon be home to hundreds of college students in clusters of proposed apartments, and she’s not happy about it.

Traffic. Rowdiness. She is braced for the worst if two developers do indeed build student housing in the Eagle Heights neighborhood of Lower Swatara Township for students at nearby Penn State Harrisburg. “Our nice hill is going to be going down the tubes,’’ she laments.

Miller and her longtime neighbors fear students will be a plague on their neighborhood if developers succeed in amending township zoning ordinances to allow student housing on several properties along West Main Street.

Township commissioners heard their pleas to reject an amendment, proposed by one developer, to allow student housing in commercial neighborhood districts within 1,000 feet of a college, like Eagle Heights, paving the way for apartments that would house hundreds of students in Miller’s Lawrence Street neighborhood.

The developer, KGH Properties, wants to build 11 apartment buildings for 264 students on three properties it has under sales agreements — an insurance office on West Main Street and two neighboring Victorian-style mansions at the western entrance to Middletown. The development would be called Campus Heights.

A second developer, GreenWorks Development of Harrisburg, wants to build an unspecified number of student apartments on five acres of land it purchased along West Main. GreenWorks has sales agreements for four more properties in the neighborhood.

Commissioners will vote Wednesday, Dec. 15 on whether to allow the amendment.

A public hearing on the amendment held Wednesday, Dec. 1, turned into an indictment or defense of college students, depending on whether you opposed or favored construction of the apartments.

Headlines from the edition

• DA’s office launches probe of tax collector

• Londonderry Township raises taxes, hike is first in 14 years

• Blue Raiders boys basketball: A ‘BIG’ team ready for new foes

• Etown farm gets record $700k for pacing mare

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