It is hard for Sounders FC goalkeeper Andrew Weber not to wonder how things would have turned out if he hadn’t sprained his ankle in a Reserve League match against Portland on April 10.
What seemed a temporary setback mushroomed in importance last week when No. 1 keeper Michael Gspurning went down with a hip injury.
With Weber still unavailable, 22-year-old Bryan Meredith took the express lane to the starting spot. And he made the most of it, beginning his MLS career with a 135-minute shutout streak, which he will take into his second career start tonight at FC Dallas.
Weber has been physically cleared again, but he returns in his familiar reserve keeper role – this time behind Meredith.
“It’s not like you’re a left back or a right back, where you can rotate in,” Weber said. “The keeper spot is one of those where you have to wait for injury, and for Bryan’s sake, it’s fortunate that Mike and I were both hurt. He’s gotten to rise to the occasion, and he’s done pretty well. It’s good for him, and it’s good for the team.”
Just as the Sounders sought a veteran No. 1 keeper to replace the retiring Kasey Keller, they also wanted someone with experience filling the No. 2 spot previously held by Terry Boss, who also retired over the offseason following a series of concussions.
The Sounders found that in Weber, 28, who has played professionally since 2005, including MLS stints at D.C. United and San Jose.
He reported to Seattle as the presumed No. 2, behind Gspurning but ahead of 2011 draftees Meredith and Josh Ford. Injuries took Ford out of the competition. But Weber emerged as the reserve keeper on game-day rosters until being displaced by Meredith for the March 31 game against San Jose.
“It was the week when (goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra) told me ‘You need to step up your game,’ ” Weber said. “And I did.”
Less than two weeks later, Weber’s left foot stuck on the turf at Starfire Sports Stadium during the reserve match, and Meredith passed him on the depth chart again by making the most of his opportunity when Gspurning went down.
Meredith is expected to face a weakened Dallas team playing without 16-year veteran Daniel Hernandez and club assists leader and goals co-leader Blas Perez, who are out after receiving red cards in the Hoops’ 2-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday.
“(Hernandez) keeps everybody else organized, keeps everyone else disciplined as they need to be,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s an important part of it. Perez has done well for them. He’s somebody they’re going to miss because they don’t really have another guy who can play up there like him. It changes how they play a little bit.”
The Sounders go into the game with a 6-1-1 record, which gives them the highest points-per-game average in the league. They also have a league-high seven-game unbeaten streak on the road. They haven’t surrendered a goal in the run of play for 658 minutes or any kind of goal in 181 minutes.
Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez will miss the game after being suspended and fined an undisclosed amount for endangering the safety of an opponent.
The MLS Disciplinary Committee made the ruling Tuesday after watching video of an incident in the 88th minute of the Saturday game against Philadelphia in which Gonzalez stepped on the leg of fallen Union defender Sheanon Williams.
A video of the incident is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.
SOUNDERS FC (6-1-1; 19 POINTS) AT FC DALLAS (3-4-3; 12 POINTS)
5:30 P.M, FC Dallas stadium, Frisco, Tex.
TV: Ch. 6/16 radio: 97.3-FM.
CLUB LEADERS: For Seattle: G 4, David Estrada; A 2, Alvaro Fernandez; S 42, Fredy Montero; SOG 14, Montero; GAA 0.00, Bryan Meredith. For Dallas: G 3, Blas Perez and Brek Shea; A 3, Perez; S 22, Shea; SOG 10 Shea; GAA 1.57, Kevin Hartman.
head to head: Seattle leads 2-1-3 overall and 1-0-2 at Dallas. No game in the series has been decided by more than one goal. The Sounders will make a return trip on Sept. 2. The Hoops visit Seattle on Oct. 21.
notes: Perez and Daniel Hernandez will miss this game while serving red-card suspensions. Seattle leads MLS with a 0.38 goals-against average and takes a 181-minute shutout streak into this match. The Sounders are unbeaten in their last seven road games (6-0-1), the longest streak in MLS. Dallas defender George John played at the UW. Dallas goalkeeper Hartman played under Sounders coach Sigi Schmid at UCLA. Dallas averages 13,681 in attendance per home game and is offering a $9 ticket promotion to spur sales for this midweek match.
QUOTABLE: “Blas has really helped them. Hernandez being a co-coach, or an assistant coach and a player, he’s very important to their team. I think they become a little more athletic without Daniel on there, but Daniel is the guy who’s the brains in that operation.” – Schmid, on the impact of Dallas’ suspended players.
NExt: Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. Saturday, CenturyLink Field.email@example.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer Twitter: @donruiztnt Don Ruiz, firstname.lastname@example.org