VANCOUVER - In weighing his social media popularity on Twitter, Marius Rovde is not in the same league with Strombone1 (312 K followers), Jose Bautista (293 K) or DeMar DeRozan (283 K).
But when you consider that his legions of followers number close to 108,000, it’s a pretty impressive total for those impressed by such things, especially since Rovde’s most serious soccer is played in a Lower Mainland recreational men’s league.
That’s more than Rolaids Relief Man Award winner John Axford (77K) of the Cleveland Indians, Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (65K), world figure skating champion Patrick Chan (57K) or Super Bowl winning punter Jon Ryan of the Seattle Seahawks (29.5K).
“I have a few famous friends,” admits Rovde, the goalkeeping coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps. “I asked them to re-tweet my tweets. I was tweeting a lot in the beginning, once every 30 minutes. I hustled it for three months. Now, it’s just growing and growing, like a rolling snowball.”
In his 41 years, Rovde has been the goalkeeper for Norway’s most famous football club, Rosenberg BK, spent six years in the Norwegian military, been employed as a manager with BMW and taken a leading hand in a start-up company that uses natural-occurring moss to clean up oil spills.
“I’ve been strategically adding (Twitter) followers to build my personal brand,” Rovde admits. “I want to build my own web page on goalkeeping and use Twitter to build traffic there.”
This week, his main traffic concern is the movement in front of David Ousted, the Danish goalkeeper who will be in line of fire when the Whitecaps play the New England Revolution Saturday at Gillette Stadium (11 a.m. PDT, CTV BC, Team 1410).
Ousted, who joined the ‘Caps in the middle of last season, was recruited by Rovde, when neither Brad Knighton nor veteran Joe Cannon, both Americans, were able to achieve full buy-in by the coaching staff.
“I scouted him, I found him (Ousted) and I got him here,” Rovde explained. “In North America, often you see that the goalkeepers are big and strong but a little robot-ish. They don’t have that natural feeling or natural understanding of how to play the position. Often, in North America, soccer is more of an activity. But, when you come to Denmark, it’s more like a lifestyle. They live and breathe soccer. David is good with his feet. He understands the game well.”
So far, with only two games’ worth of evidence, Ousted has started 2014 much as he finished 2013, showing competence but not much more beyond that. Goalkeeping is not an advantage for Vancouver, but neither is it a disadvantage.
In the Whitecaps’ season-opener, a 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, the flow of play was mostly one-way, with the Whitecaps’ peppering the opposition ‘keeper before Ousted was beaten in extra time and deprived of a clean sheet.
“He didn’t need to make many saves in that game, and I think he felt he let the team down a little bit,” said Whitecaps’ defender Jay DeMerit. “Credit his professionalism for bouncing back in the next game.”
In the Whitecaps’ 1-1 draw with Chivas USA last Sunday, Ousted was caught wrong-footed when a strike by Erick Torres of the Goats glanced off DeMerit’s hindquarters and into the net. But he made a brilliant save in the second half that allowed the ‘Caps to escape with a point.
“Pointing fingers and attaching blame is not getting us anywhere,” Ousted said Wednesday, referring to the the deflected goal that beat him against Chivas. “It’s about working together to try and get a clean sheet. They (defenders) can’t do it alone and I can’t do it alone. I’d rather discuss with the guys what they can do better and what I can do better. It’s about trying to improve on every game, on every detail.”
Though he’s 29, having played 10 seasons in Denmark, including four with in the top-flight Superliga, Ousted shouldn’t be judged as a finished product, suggested Rovde.
“When I was a goalkeeper myself, I don’t think I really had things figured out until I was 33,” he said. “It didn’t happen, until I reached 30, that I started to become a monster on cross balls. Goalkeeping is like poker. The more games or hands you play the better you become. Age doesn’t do it. Experience does. Quality repetitions. I see David’s natural ambition taking him back to Europe. But first he’s got to establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.”
Ousted’s backup, Paolo Tornaghi, is 25 and apprentice Marco Carducci, who signed his first professional contract earlier this month, is just 17. And while all three Whitecap ‘keepers still have growth ahead of them, Rovde believes, he is particularly high on the Calgary-born Carducci -- and not just because of his youth.
“Paolo could be a starter now,” Rovde said. “He’s better than some of the other MLS goalkeepers. And Marco is different than other North Americans. He’s been in an environment where he’s living and breathing soccer. The game is his life. He has such a great understanding, for someone so young. Marco is taking steps every week. I see him going far.”
His potential is enough to turn the Whitecaps goalkeeping coach all a twitter.
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