The DC United goalkeeping situation is something which has been in flux for quite some time. Ever since the departure of 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Troy Perkins, the club has been searching for an answer between the pipes. After the 2007 season, Perkins decided to test his mettle in European soccer, signing with Valerenga of Norway.
DCU first tried to fill this void with the addition of Zach Wells, through a trade with Houston Dynamo. Bobby Boswell, who had been struggling, was shipped to Houston in the deal. This turned out to be a bad swap for United, as Wells struggled mightily and Boswell returned to solid form with Houston. During Wells’ one and only season as United ‘keeper, the club didn’t achieve it’s first shutout until August 2nd. Running out of patience with his performance, the front office turned to Louis Crayton.
The Liberian international, was signed from Swiss side FC Basel. Crayton made his debut for the Black and Red on August 16 of last year, recording a shutout in his first match. Crayton continued to start the majority of the campaign. Though a bit wild coming off his line, (this could probably be largely attributed to shoddy defense) Crayton did considerably well. He clearly outplayed Wells and appeared to have the starting job locked down heading into this season. However, he started this season on the injury list.
Josh Wicks started the first two matches with mixed results. They were a 2 – 2 draw with Los Angeles, in which DCU blew a two goal lead in the last ten minutes. Though Wicks wasn’t necessarily to blame there … Donovan scored on a questionable penalty kick and poor marking led to a Donovan header. His second start in a row resulted in a 1 – 1 draw with Chicago Fire. This time Wicks deserved to be the scapegoat … he gave up the game tying goal to Patrick Nyarko. After Marco Pappa slid in a well placed through ball, Nyarko raced towards the ball in the box. Wicks probably should have stayed on his line. Instead, he charged after the ball. Despite coming late off his line, he never left his feet, allowing Nyarko to calmly slot it home.
Once Crayton returned to health, it looked like the job was still his. Yet, Crayton proved to be inconsistent, allowing goals on critical errors of judgement. He had a tendency to come out for crosses and whiff at them, leading to soft goals. This allowed for rookie Milos Kocic to garner some playing time.
While Kocic unquestionably has talent, it’s very raw and it was a learning experience for him. Like Crayton, Kocic got a clean sheet in his first competitive match for DCU. Kocic and club blanked FC Dallas in US Open Cup Qualifying Round 1. Kocic appears to be a player who could be a bonafide all – star with more training and experience. He has the tools, but doesn’t appear sharp enough just yet to hold down the job.
With Crayton’s $200k + contract set to expire in July, it appears that the Liberian goalie is done with his career in the District. Yet, United may have some found some piece of mind in this goalkeeping three way. Josh Wicks has emerged as a very solid and consistent force these last several weeks. So the question is, where the heck did this guy come from?
Wicks was born in Landstuhl Germany, but grew up in San Bernardino, California. He played college ball in – state at Cal State Bakersfield. While attending school, he played for Des Moines Menace of the PDL. In 2005 Wicks began his career as a professional with Vancouver Whitecaps as a backup. Injuries to their starting keeper enabled Wicks to play in 13 matches, including two playoff games. He peformed well, accumulating 7 shutouts and didn’t give up a goal in 2 playoff games. He performed well enough for Vancouver to re-sign him for 2006. 2007 brought a move to Portland Timbers, where he truly broke out. He finished the year with league highs in shutouts (14) and Goals against average (.603), en route to winning USL-1 Goalkeeper of the Year.
His outstanding play attracted the interest of LA Galaxy and soon Wicks was in MLS, backing up Steve Cronin. The 2008 season with LA wasn’t particularly memorable and he didn’t look like the same player who had won keeper of the year. Though this was probably largely due to playing for a Galaxy defense that was the worst in MLS last season. Nevertheless, Wicks was not deemed the answer in sunny LA and Galaxy ended up signing Jamaican National team keeper Donovan Ricketts. As almost an afterthought to DCU’s offseason, Wicks was acquired via LA in exchange for a conditional 4th round MLS Superdraft pick.
Certainly, a much improved United backline has helped all the keepers on the roster. Only a few weeks ago, I thought Wicks should be third on DCU’s depth chart, now that’s definately changed. So what’s set Wicks apart, despite mixed reviews after starting the first 2 games for DCU? Let’s take a look back at his performance the last couple of weeks …
*DCU / Real Salt Lake, 5/23/09 :
- 8 saves, including 3 of highlight reel quality
- Beckerman released Findley in the box, Wicks makes nice 1 v 1 save. Beckerman’s rocket from distance tipped over the bar. Findley header on target, Wicks dives down quickly to make save.
- In a game that DCU was probably moderately outplayed, Wicks was the reason behind the club earning a point.
*NE Revolution / DCU, 5/30/09 :
- Probably not his best of the last 2 weeks, mainly because he was largely responsible for Joseph’s goal. Wicks came off his line to punch a cross into the box and whiffed, allowing Joseph to head it into an open net.
- Still though, several nice saves … including 2 of Taylor Twellman headers from close range and knocking aside a searing blast by Alston.
*DCU / NYRB, 6/04/09 :
- Made the save of the match, diving low and to the right to palm wide Angel’s one – timer from 15 yards
- Quickly came off his line to steal the ball from the feet of Borman on a breakaway.
- Overall NY didn’t do too much on the offensive end, but Wicks was excellent when he needed to be.
*DCU / Chicago Fire, 6/13/09 :
- Several amazing saves, including point blank save 1 v 1 with Conde.
- Saved a PK by McBride.
- In good position throughout the match, had quick instinctive reactions.
While two weeks of solid goalkeeping is hardly enough to cement his status as a top flight player, Wicks has solidified his role as United’s starter. With more performances like these, this is one position on the club that may no longer be in doubt.