Josh Wicks Solidifies His Hold on D.C. United's Starting Goalie Job

United's Josh Wicks credits improved fitness with his advancement on the field. He is expected to start in net tonight.
United's Josh Wicks credits improved fitness with his advancement on the field. He is expected to start in net tonight. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2009

Following his trade from the Los Angeles Galaxy to D.C. United in March, goalkeeper Josh Wicks spent a few weeks living out of a hotel room in the Washington area before finally finding an apartment in Southeast.

Wicks had little furniture, only a table, a few chairs and a television. "Nothing else, no bed, no nothing," he said.

So as he waited for his belongings to be shipped from Los Angeles, Wicks said he escaped his unsettled life off the field the way he always had -- by focusing on his job on the field.

Not that his role on the field for United was any clearer.

With a three-man rotation of Louis Crayton, Wicks and rookie Milos Kocic, the goalkeeper position has been in flux for much of the year for United.

Wicks was shaky in his first two starts with United and didn't instill much confidence in an organization searching for the long-term starter. But with a stellar performance in a 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake on May 23, a game in which Wicks earned his first MLS shutout and made several spectacular saves, the 25-year-old may have started to secure a hold on the starting spot.

"I shouldn't say I've been waiting for that performance but that's the performance that I finally had that as far as personally getting my confidence rolling even more," Wicks said last week. "To show the coaches that I can play at this level and they can rely on me any given day that they need to. And it really helped me to have a game like that."

Wicks credited improved fitness with his advancement on the field, and United Coach Tom Soehn said getting Wicks in better shape was critical to his ability to perform, and to have an opportunity to play more.

Wicks followed the shutout of Real Salt Lake with a decent performance at New England on Saturday, though he allowed an equalizer in the second half when he came out on a cross but failed to get a touch on the ball, giving Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph an open header into the empty net.

United eventually lost, 2-1, on a late penalty kick by the Revolution.

Still, Wicks's ability to cement the role of day-in, day-out starter could prove vital to United's continued success. With rotating goalkeepers, it can be difficult for a defense to establish consistency in the back because of a lack of communication -- an important component of a strong defense.

"For us with the back line now, it's been pretty consistent on the guys who have been playing the back three position, so you want that guy behind you to be someone that you see on a continuous basis throughout every game," defender Bryan Namoff said last week. "And Josh Wicks had a great game [against Real Salt Lake], it was a good performance out of him and we've actually been building upon that game and that performance on the training field to try to build that line of communication."

Wicks is expected to start for United tonight at home against the New York Red Bulls. But at a position that has been anything but solid this season, he likely will need another strong performance to maintain the starting job.

"As long as I can stay consistent," Wicks said. "And continue to do the things that I can do well and perform well, if I can lock up that starting spot it'd be a great accomplishment in my career and a great starting point for my career."

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