When you’re playing at this level, everything’s slim margins. A wrong decision could cost the team a goal or even a game. It’s all about making the right decision, at the right time.
I've probably learned more in the past eight games that I've played with the first team than I have from anything else in a really long time.
Following our match against Las Vegas, my next two starts were in the Open Cup away to Portland and Colorado.
Playing wise, this is all so much different than training. Nothing really prepares you to be in those away match environments, it’s just a tenfold different experience but there’s also the mental side of it all. You’ve got their fans in your ear all match yelling who knows what, but that’s what I love. I love that challenge.
So we’re in Portland, my family has flown up and the place is rocking. The craziest environment I had played in since Columbus.
Five minutes in and I play a ball to Pablo Ruiz that I probably shouldn’t have and they immediately score.
Something I’ve been talking to my dad about a lot recently is short term memory, for good and bad things that have happened. It’s part of the deal of being a professional soccer player, they’ll both happen, it’s all about the next play.
So at that point, I’m waiting for play to restart thinking, “alright cool, you’ve already f-cked up, no nervousness now, just go out and show what you can do.”
After that I feel like I had a couple really good saves to help keep us in the game, and keep us in the lead going into halftime. Then the second half starts and they come out and score two goals, and we’re on our heels again.
But, you know, we never stopped playing and got the win, and I feel like that’s just something so vital in our team this year. To just keep grinding out results whether that is just getting a zero-zero or getting the three points on the road in a crazy game like this.
Like I said, I’ve learned so much.
For me, when to play the ball has been the biggest thing. Realizing that we don’t have to build out of the back everytime. I think having the support of the coaching staff has helped me with becoming comfortable with not forcing anything. If I play it long and we win the second ball, that’s great too.
Decision making has been a really big part of all this. That’s also like knowing when I need to come out for a cross or letting my defenders deal with it. Whether or not I make that decision, they score or they don’t score. You just never know, it’s the little things.
So then, the next game was away to Colorado in the Open Cup right after we had played them in the league.
Open Cup is a full-on grind. Whether it's 90 minutes, 120 minutes or PKs, in a sense it’s a totally different type of game because you both want to get to the next round.
That game was great. I made one big save in the first half. It was like five minutes in and Rosenberry hits one hard and low and I’m able to deflect it away. Those saves are always tough when they go through a crowd of players. It was the only save I really had to make, but it felt great to get my first shutout, just a super cool feeling. Knowing that we won and it was only one to zero. I could look back knowing if I didn’t make that save in the first half it’s one, one and then who knows how the game goes. Super fun, man.
And then with the way the Open Cup has been going, it was interesting playing almost back-to-back in the league and the cup against Portland and Colorado. There’s a whole different vibe to it, you’re looking at their lineups wondering if they’re bringing in anyone different but I think it’s been good for us as a team to know we’ve not just gotten good results not once but twice in those games.
Next in Minnesota, I’m on the bench for the first 46 minutes, but then Zac goes down. It was super unfortunate he got hurt and I went over to check in if he was alright, and he told me, “no man, I think we’re gonna have to make a change, be ready.”
As a keeper, you always have to be ready, but I mean, it was like, oh sh-t, I’m like going in NOW, you know?
It’s different being substituted as a goalkeeper than a field player because you’re going in cold. You have no idea what the pace of the game is and it’s tough to just watch it and kind of get a feel of it all.
I just told Zac, “Alright sounds good,” told myself it’s time to lock in and let's do this. I’m going in over to their supporters section, it’s my second ever MLS game and I knew this was a big point on the road.
In the end, we got to that point and Minnesota’s stadium was awesome, it was a fun place to do it.
I’m learning a lot off the field too, when it comes to responsibility. This is probably the stuff that fans might not know about. Being a pro isn’t always the most glamorous thing, sometimes it can be a little messy as well (laughs,).
Like I mentioned in the last story, I had recently gotten my new labrador retriever puppy, Dale. During the Minnesota trip, I had a buddy watching him, because traveling has been tough, Dale was still too young to go to boarding, and my buddy lives down the street so I thought it would go fine.
When we get back from these away games we usually get back that same night at like 2:00 am, I finally get back to my apartment at 3:00 am and I could smell it as soon as I opened the door, and I know what happened. He had sh-t all over his crate, he’s a mess. As soon as I open the door, he sprints out of the crate to come see me, he’s getting it all over the carpet, just running around. I’m like what is going on, this is so bad. So after the Minnesota game, I was up until about 4:00 am cleaning him off and cleaning the house. I just threw away the crate man, and got a new one. Luckily nothing like that has happened since, but he’s starting to notice when I’m trying to pack and he gets upset, and I’m like bro relax, I’ll be back. It’s all good though, I love him and he’s gotten a lot better and bigger. It's funny. One minute you’re feeling great about helping the team hold on for a point on the road, six hours later, it’s the middle of the night and you’re cleaning up after your dog. That’s life, man.
I start the next game against the Galaxy at home, and it’s a frustrating one. It’s a game that as a team we feel we should have won. I think that kind of added to our motivation going into our next match against Austin.
I actually went to Austin for the playoffs last year, but I wasn’t even rostered. I just wanted to watch. I told Pablo, ‘Hey, can I just go and watch, this is the kind of environment that I want to be in.” So during that game last year, they didn’t show me on TV but I was up there in the box with Damir, Bobby Wood, and Aaron Herrera.
So to go from last October being there, not even rostered, to starting was super cool.
It was also really cool that Bode (Hidalgo) started that match too. It was kind of an unreal experience all together with the lightning delay. It was great to go up early, but then at the same time it kind of felt like a dangerous spot because we just sat there for two hours waiting for play to restart.
It was tough trying to stay switched on and also relax when it just kept getting pushed back every 30 minutes. Back in the locker room there was a baseball or softball game on, and I don’t even watch baseball or softball, I don’t even like either of them but it was just something to keep your mind off of things, not get too frantic. It ended up being a nice distraction during a weird situation.
Coming back into the game, you knew they wanted to get a goal before half, we kept them out and then started the second half fresh and luckily got a massive win on the road.
I spoke a bit earlier about decision making, especially with my feet, and I think Austin is where it kind of came full circle. I felt really good about the crosses I came out and dealt with and then I think I did a good job starting counterattacks with my feet. I think that plays a big part in helping the team get out throughout the game. The slim margins went my way.
My mom and sister were there, they’re super excited, my mom’s crying. Them just being there and getting to see that was so dope.
It all kind of comes back to what me and my dad talked about though, through the good and the bad, it’s all about the next play. Getting named on the Team of the Matchday was super cool, but like, we then have a huge Open Cup quarterfinal at home in four days. Not too high, not too low.
I’ll always keep learning, growing, staying humble and having fun. I couldn’t be more excited for the next huge games we have coming up. As always, time for the next play.