VANCOUVER - If goalkeepers are that unique species of footballer who can continue to master the position well into their thirties, it's likely that David Ousted—who turned 29 on February 1 — could make his mark on the world's game well into his fourth decade.
“In a goalkeeping role, he’s still quite young,” said Marius Rovde, the Norwegian-born goalkeeping coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps. “He has a lot of things to learn. But he’s learning every day.”
Is Ousted a difference-maker?
The question has trailed him like a hounding defender every time he shows chinks in the armour as he did in a preseason tournament in Portland and in the Whitecaps’ first Major League Soccer start on March 8 against the New York Red Bulls.
Though the Whitecaps dominated the Red Bulls in winning 4-1, Ousted conceded a goal in extra time because of a self-admitted “lapse of concentration.”
“That can happen,” he said. “We’re trying to develop to the point where I’m playing 95 minutes instead of just 90. I have to build on games like those.”
On Saturday, Ousted was unsolvable not only for the full 90 minutes but the injury time that followed as the Whitecaps played to a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution.
Fortress Ousted was impenetrable as the Whitecaps (1-0-2) remained undefeated and stole a point for the second consecutive road game, coming on the heels of a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA six days earlier in Carson, Calif.
The first clean sheet of the 2014 season was well-earned by the Danish ‘keeper, who not only had to be sharp -- at times Ousted was forced to be brilliant, especially in the first half.
Winless and goalless in their first two starts, both on the road, the Revolution were committed to the attack and eager not to disappoint supporters grouped at Gillette Stadium for the Revs’ home opener in Foxborough, Mass.
Early on, however, Ousted hiked up his game to another stratum. He left the Revs speechless when the ‘keeper extended his right arm to deprive Andy Dorman of a goal on a header, following the first of four corners in the first half by New England.
“We knew that the Revolution was coming,” Ousted explained. “We knew they wanted to come home in their stadium and set some things straight. So, we knew the first 20 minutes, especially, were going to be hard. But we weathered the storm and got away with a point.”
Forceful in his decision-making, Ousted also turned back threatening attempts by Teal Bunbury, Saer Sene and Diego Fagundez in the opening 45 minutes.
A strike by Fagundez, which brushed the far post in the 68th minute, was as close as the Revolution came to solving him.
“We were grateful that he (Ousted) was on form,” said veteran defender Andy O’Brien.
So, too, was O’Brien, who played the role of a second goalkeeper by blocking and deflecting away other chances that could have resulted in a different outcome. In the 80th minute, the Revolution nearly broke the stalemate with a point-blank shot by former Whitecap Daigo Kobayashi, but it ricocheted off O'Brien and sailed out of bounds. It was one of 17 attempts on goal by New England to Vancouver's eight.
“It’s about working together and trying keep a clean sheet,” Ousted explained. “They can’t do it alone and I can’t do it alone.”
Loyalty is a fine sentiment. But, in sport, it lasts only as long as a player is worth the current price of his hire.
When it’s no longer the underpinning of his existence, he is punted out of play.
But Brad Knighton, traded to the Revolution by the Whitecaps in December, felt the playing field was tilted against him from the moment Ousted arrived last June in a transfer from the Danish Superliga.
“Totally,” said Knighton, who was New England’s backup ‘keeper for the third straight game Saturday behind Bobby Shuttleworth. “They obviously didn’t bring in a goalkeeper from Europe to have him sit on the bench. It was tough. I felt a bit hard done by the (Whitecaps) organization. But it’s the nature of the business. You have to bite the bullet, accept it and move on.”
Rovde, Ousted’s coach and fellow Scandinavian, admits to a certain bias when it comes to a goalkeeper’s heritage. He believes the Dane is “a more natural goalkeeper” than Knighton “a hard worker, strong, physical goalkeeper” but an American, nonetheless, who lacks the same soccer instincts.
“David has a more natural understanding of the position,” Rovde concedes. “He’s tall, and more of a football player with his feet. He knows the game well.”
“He (Rovde) knows the culture I come from, the way I play over there,” Ousted said. “We’re both perfectionists.”
Hard to argue he wasn't close to flawless Saturday afternoon.
CORNER KICKS -- Kenny Miller wore the captain’s armband for the Whitecaps after veteran defender Jay DeMerit was held out by manager Carl Robinson and didn’t make the trip. Johnny Leveron got the start in his place. Robinson said he wants to be economical with playing time allotted to veteran players to keep them fresh over the long season . . . Robinson sent out substitutes and speed merchants Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh and Gershon Koffie in the second half after midfielders Nigel Reo-Coker, Matias Laba and Sebastian Fernandez struggled to achieve meaningful link play. Fernandez, the Uruguayan who looked to have the fierce eyes of a natural-born scorer in his debut game, was neutralized by defender Andrew Farrell to the point of near-invisibility . . . Morales didn’t start because of a sore back, but he played with energy and created what few threatening chances the Whitecaps had . . . Midfielder Russell Teibert returned after missing one game because of a hamstring injury . . . The Revolution hasn't lost a home opener since 2007, going 6-0-2 over that span . . . The Whitecaps and Revolution scored a combined 12 goals in their previous two meetings before Saturday's blank sheet.
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