Nothing but Netminders: United Tries to Settle on a Starter

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Louis Crayton offers the most experience and best game management. Josh Wicks is imposing and boisterous. Milos Kocic is an eager and aggressive rookie.

"If you could combine all their strengths into one," D.C. United assistant coach Mark Simpson said, "you would have a darn-good goalkeeper."

In its long-term quest to settle on a starter, United has sampled each of its goalies this spring.

Crayton, the incumbent, wasn't available at the beginning of the season because of a leg injury, allowing the newly acquired Wicks to prove his worth. By the third week, Wicks was ailing and Crayton, back in form, reclaimed the job.

Kocic, in need of experience, made his debut in a nonleague game. Crayton returned, but only for one outing before yielding to Kocic again.

So who will start tonight at Kansas City?

United Coach Tom Soehn won't say, but Crayton seems to be the favorite. Or not.

"All three at any point could start for us," Soehn said yesterday. "They all give different qualities and we are going to keep pushing all three of them to make sure, when it is their time to step in, they are ready."

With Wicks working himself into shape, Crayton and Kocic were named to the travel roster for tonight's match against the Wizards (3-3-1). Despite the rotating assignment, United is 3-1-3 in league play -- tying it with Toronto for first place in MLS's Eastern Conference with a game in hand -- and has advanced to the second stage of qualifying for a U.S. Open Cup berth.

None of the goalies has been perfect, however. And until someone definitively emerges in practice and games, the competition will continue.

"I tell each guy, 'I am looking for somebody to step up and win the job,' " said Simpson, a former United goalie who works directly with the current group. "You play around with it because you want to get everybody experience and get them comfortable, but ultimately, you are looking for that one guy to emerge."

Crayton, 31, was the clear choice when training camp opened, and even more so after the abrupt retirement of Zach Wells, who started 18 of the first 19 league matches last year before losing the starting job to newcomer Crayton.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company