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A Goalie You Can Bank On
"If he had the brim hat you could actually call him Gilligan," agreed goalkeepers coach Mark Simpson.
Perkins, who had never been on a boat before college, fell in love with the water and now socializes with friends on the waterfront nearly every weekend. He's pricing used 50- to 55-foot yachts, hoping to buy one within the next six months and live on it with his wife, Betsy, who is working toward an advanced pharmaceuticals degree at Auburn. In preparation for living on the water, he's currently tackling a 1,500-page book on watercraft navigation.
He had always applied a similar focus to soccer, filling his childhood bedroom with soccer posters and motivational sayings. When he transferred to Evansville for his senior season because of a coaching change at South Florida, he immediately became a team captain, asking coaches to stay with him after practice and pretty much moving into the weight room.
"We couldn't keep him out of there," then-coach Dave Golan said. "I mean, the guy's a machine."
Perkins was not chosen in the 2004 MLS draft and signed with United, where he began the same routine, pestering Eskandarian to take extra shots on him after practice.
"And I remember his first month or two on the team it was so easy for me to score on him, it was hilarious -- I almost felt bad," Eskandarian said. "And I'd be like, 'Dude, have you had enough?' and he was like, 'No, 10 more.' And we kept shooting, kept shooting every day after practice, and sooner or later a couple months went by and I'm like, 'Man it's not as easy to score on him anymore.' "
Because of injuries to United's other two goalkeepers that year, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Perkins assumed the starting role while working part time at a sporting goods store. He performed well as a starter, although he eventually ceded the job back to Nick Rimando, who remained the first-string keeper last year. But Perkins had a strong preseason this spring and was pushing for the starting role even before Rimando was injured again.
Perkins was shaky in United's opener, after which he apologized to coaches and asked for another chance. Since then, he has had scoreless stretches of 338 and 247 minutes and has recorded a league-leading seven shutouts, tied for second in franchise history.
"His play has been absolutely rock solid," said Simpson, who said he thinks Perkins could be in the pool of U.S. players invited to future national team training camps. "He has earned his spot, he's kept his spot and right now it's tough to take him off the field."
All the while Perkins was pursuing his second career. His mother, Debbie, has been in the mortgage industry for more than 25 years, but she didn't encourage her sons to follow suit. Older brother Travis is a golfer on the Nationwide Tour, and Troy never had expressed an interest in mortgages before a friend arranged for his interview in December.
"He told me he had a job interview with a mortgage company, and I said, 'Oh Troy, you don't want to do that,' " Debbie Perkins said. "He called me back and said, 'I'm going to start working next week,' and I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me!' "
In his interview, Perkins promised to work until 8 or 9 p.m. if necessary, but he's settled into a less draining routine. He arrives at RFK Stadium around 9 a.m. and leaves at 1:30 or 2, packing his lunch and heading to the office. He stays until 5:30 or 6, working slightly less in weeks when United plays on the road, which he notes on a large office calendar.
His co-workers describe Perkins as humble and serious and hardworking; one supervisor said he has to persuade Perkins to take short breaks to socialize. His office mates only gradually learned about Perkins's soccer career; when they found out, several asked what it was like to be a backup.
"And I'm going: 'You know what, I've been playing, guys. I've been starting,' " said Perkins, who didn't tell co-workers about the all-star game, saying it made him uncomfortable and that he doesn't like drawing attention to himself.
But he signs balls and jerseys for co-workers' children, was featured in the company newsletter last month and has became a popular target of workplace jokes. Friends put an image of Perkins allowing a goal on his computer's desktop, and they needled him this week for not playing during a friendly with Celtic FC.
Perkins said he would keep his part-time job even if he gets a raise from MLS and would like to pursue a full-time career in the mortgage industry eventually, and his supervisors said they're willing to wait.
"The kid's aggressive, he's driven, he's a smart kid and there's no sense of entitlement," said Craig Chapman, executive vice president for First National. "I didn't care about his soccer, because really that doesn't help me. It was about his attitude and his ability. He's a pretty gifted kid."