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Ben Olsen steps down as Washington Spirit president

(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

Ben Olsen has stepped down as the president of the Washington Spirit, the NWSL club announced Monday.

A former player and coach with MLS club D.C. United, Olsen took the post with the Spirit last September as the team was dealing with a coaching change and a league investigation into its leadership — and as the team was surging to the 2021 NWSL title.

“The last eight months have been a challenging but very rewarding time for all of us at the Spirit,” Olsen said in a statement. “It’s been an honor to help steady the organization and contribute to bringing another championship to the city I love.”

Olsen worked with new coach Kris Ward this offseason to shape the roster, according to the Washington Post. But he was a holdover from previous owner Steve Baldwin, who sold the team to Y. Michele Kang in the offseason.

Baldwin announced he would step down as CEO and controlling owner in October. In the aftermath, Spirit players released a statement criticizing Baldwin for his stewardship of the franchise, including his hiring of Olsen.

“In your final act as managing partner, you passed the baton to someone you hired who has virtually no experience in the role you left to him,” the statement read. “We have no confidence in that management structure, especially on the soccer operations side.”

Kang wanted Olsen to give up the position of president to focus on soccer operations, the Washington Post reported, but Olsen chose to step down instead.

“Ben steered us through a tumultuous period and righted the ship,” Kang said in a statement Monday. “Ben’s expertise and character allowed our players to keep their focus on the field and our staff members to keep their eyes on the road ahead. Over the last few months, he has played an instrumental role in the transition period leading up to the start of the regular season. We will all miss working with him.”

The Spirit is unbeaten in 19 straight competitive matches since Ward’s debut as interim coach last August. He was named the permanent head coach in the offseason.