The thing about D.C. United coach Ben Olsen is that while he was clearly not happy having to address a controversy over playing time and a debate over whether a player is 90-minutes fit, he welcomed the chance to give his side of the story.
Asked why Branko Boskovic isn’t able to go 90 minutes at this point in the season, Olsen said: “The game [against New England] needed a change. Lewis [Neal] came in and did a very good job, and I’m very happy that Branko’s pissed off about it. I want guys pissed off if they’re coming out of the game and they want to be in a game. This is a normal reaction. I was the same way. You know that. Getting subbed is never fun.”
But isn’t there a trend? He’s played 90 minutes once this season.
“Yeah,” Olsen said. “You need to play 90 minutes consistently to get fit, and he hasn’t been in the plans for 90 minutes so he’s not 90-minutes fit, in my mind.”
Olsen said Boskovic has never raised any concerns or objections to him.
“No, he’s a pro,” Olsen said. “He’ll be fine. He’s pissed off he got subbed, but I can sleep at night because I thought the game needed a sub and it ended up helping out.”
As to whether there’s something about Boskovic that’s misread by the coaching staff, Olsen talked about what he saw in the New England game but not about his definition of whether Boskovic is indeed unfit or not.
“Unhappy that you get subbed? Great,” Olsen said. “Happy that we won the game? That’s all I want from my players. If that’s the case he’s in? Beautiful.”
But the issue that still remains is that Boskovic wasn’t just an early sub against the Revolution. He’s been pulled early on a regular basis. Why?
“Because that’s the decision I make,” said Olsen, who has no intention of going back to Boskovic to continue the conversation.
“I’m not going to make this a big issue,” he said. “I don’t have an ego with this stuff. You want to ‘MF’ me in the press? I don’t care. What do I care? I care about this team and winning games and doing the right thing for this team. That’s fine. I realized about a week in that I can’t please all my players. That’s one of the first lessons I learned here, and I think Branko’s been great. His role in this team will continue to be a guy who can start in some games and come off the bench in others. That’s where I have him. He’s not going to be happy about it. He’s a pro. He’s going to continue to do his work. I’m sure of it, and he’ll be a big part of what we’re doing down the stretch.”
Olsen conceded that it would “probably” be difficult for Boskovic to play when he’s concerned about getting substituted, but he has no concerns about continuing to use Boskovic in that 60-minutes-per-game capacity.
“I’m not saying that’s his role every game, but this happens,” Olsen said. “This is part of who we are as a group. We’ve got some guys that can contribute off the bench and offer different things. We’ve got some guys I’ll use in away games that I wouldn’t use at home. This isn’t personal. This is all about making decisions that I think are going to help this team win games. Branko’s been a great soldier. I’m surprised it’s taken him this long say something, to be honest with you.”