Whos a keeper as starting goalie?
Perkins' return could change Timbers' pecking order
What's in a name? Would a goalkeeper by any name still keep a clean sheet? Those questions may soon be answered, as a bit of a keeper controversy looms in the Rose City.
During the first few weeks of the season, the Portland Timbers saw their first- and second-string goalkeepers go down with injury. Projected starter Troy Perkins suffered a partially torn ligament in his right knee making a save in training four days before the Timbers' first MLS match. Backup Adin Brown injured his hamstring in the second game, a 2-0 loss at Toronto FC.
That left 20-year-old Jake Gleeson as the Timbers' last line of defense.
Now, Perkins is getting healthy, and he might retake the position from Gleeson as early as Saturday, when the Timbers play on the road at 8 p.m. against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
'There's every chance,' goalkeeper coach Adam Smith said Tuesday, when asked if Perkins could start against the Galaxy.
Perkins has been practicing and played Tuesday in a training game against the U.S. Under-18 national team.
'Troy Perkins is a goalkeeper with a very good pedigree. He's obviously older and more experienced (than Gleeson). We haven't brought him here to sit on the bench, just as we brought all players here to be given opportunities.'
Gleeson, 6-3, 200 pounds, has been solid so far. In 315 minutes, he has made 12 saves, but he also has conceded six goals (1.71 per game). Even as he fights for playing time, Gleeson concedes something else: he is not yet as good as Perkins (6-1, 190, from Worthington, Ohio) or Brown (6-5, 230, Pleasant Hill, Calif.).
'I'm not up to Troy Perkins or Adin's level yet,' Gleeson says. 'Nowhere near that. They're 29 and 32 years old. They've been around the track and played big games and won big games. Hopefully I can be at that level one day, but I know my limitations right now.'
Gleeson does not use his youth as an excuse, though.
'I use it more, as I've got a long time to learn,' says the native of New Zealand, who was voted for MLS Save of the Week three weeks ago. 'I don't like people saying, 'He can't do it, because he's young and inexperienced.' I've shown I can step up to this level.'
Smith says he has been impressed with Gleeson and that he has the talent to go beyond the North American league.
'Overall, if you look at everything, he's done very, very well,' Smith says. 'He's got a very, very bright future. He's a young man that can go on to even bigger and better things than the MLS.'
Coach John Spencer calls Gleeson 'a special kid' who, with experience, 'could play at the highest level.'
And Brown isn't out of the mix, when healthy, which gives the Timbers plenty of options.
'Whether Jake comes out of the mix and Troy goes in, that remains to be seen,' Smith says. 'But even if he does, I'm sure Jake's opportunity will come again, as I'm sure Adin Brown's opportunity will come again. They've all had opportunities this year, and they'll continue to get opportunities.'
• When the Timbers (2-2-1, 7 points) face the Galaxy (3-1-3, 12 points) on Saturday, Portland will be stepping onto the pitch against a side that has been the torch bearer for the growth of Major League Soccer.
Even non-soccer aficionados know the name Landon Donovan. And Donovan's popularity is outshined by the ever-changing hairstyles of David Beckham. After becoming a hero to millions in Europe, Beckham came to the states and gave American soccer's popularity a WWE-sized shot of steroids.
Donovan, however, has played in only three games this season and still is nursing a knee injury that has had him listed as questionable for Saturday.
Besides Donovan and Beckham, Timbers faithful may also recognize a few names from the past on the Galaxy's roster. Forward Bryan Jordan played with Portland in 2007-08, and Josh Saunders kept goal for the Timbers from 2003-06. Jordan has been coming off the bench for the injury-plagued Galaxy, and Saunders has started three times but was on the bench Sunday against Chicago.
Also, forward Chad Barrett starred for Southridge High. He scored the first goal for the Galaxy in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Chicago.
• With the Timbers winning their first two MLS matches, coach John Spencer showed just how much he loves a good, 'I told you so.'
Less than a minute into his post-match press conference after the Timbers' 4-2 win over Chicago, Spencer was sending a missile at ESPN soccer analyst Alexi Lalas.
'It felt great when we were winning 3-nil,' Spencer said. 'When it was 3-2, I was a little bit scared. I must admitAlexi Lalas' words were ringing in my ears that Chicago was going to come here and beat us tonight. So … that's why Alexi is doing the commentary now and he's not a coach in the league.'
Then, after the Timbers beat Dallas FC 3-2 last week, Spencer kindly made sure naysayers in the local media knew he had not forgotten their early questions about how successful his team would be in its expansion year.
'The first couple of games,' Spencer said, 'there was a few doubters out there saying that we weren't good enough in the back, we weren't good enough in the midfield, we don't have no creativity, who's going to score goals? We've scored seven goals in the last two games. We're very happy with that.'