D.C. United's Josh Wicks Learns From His Experience Facing Real Madrid

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

D.C. United goalkeeper Josh Wicks joked that he thought most about the challenge he would be facing in a Real Madrid team stocked full of world-class attacking talent on Saturday night as he got into bed.

No doubt the idea of Madrid strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka bearing down on his net caused Wicks some nightmares.

But for much of the 67 minutes he played on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field in D.C. United's 3-0 loss to the Spanish giants, Wicks more than held his own -- and even impressed with several quality saves -- before conceding two goals in the second half.

"I mean, in the first half yeah," Wicks said, when asked if he was happy with his performance. "I let two in quick in the second half [and] I'm a huge critic of myself but I'll look back and all in all, I'd say I had a good game."

Wicks admitted to some butterflies prior to the start of the exhibition match against Real Madrid, one of the world's premier clubs, which spent $375 million this summer acquiring talent.

But after warming up, Wicks said he had shaken off any nerves and was zoned in on the task ahead -- and, as it turned out, he would need the focus early on.

Not more than 15 minutes in, Wicks faced his first true test, a blast from Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero from the top of the box, and the 25-year-old goalkeeper responded with a crucial save.

A poor clearance from the back line set up Granero for the shot, which he smacked toward the far post, but Wicks sprawled out and pushed it wide.

"Defenders [cleared] it and it was right outside the box [so] either they're going to get it in the stands or someone is going to get a shot," Wicks said. "So I was making sure I was ready for either one."

Wicks made a quality stop on a header near halftime, and then early in the second half stonewalled Dutch star Arjen Robben from close range. Robben badly turned D.C. defender Marc Burch inside the box and was in alone on Wicks at a sharp angle about 10 yards out, but Wicks got his right hand on the shot to again save United.

"That's a tight angle for anybody and the thing I've learned from past experience is don't guess, hold your ground because he has a small window to shoot at," Wicks said. "And I stood my ground and he put it close enough to get a hand on it."

But shortly after that save, Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain beat Wicks twice in a span of two minutes to give Madrid a 2-0 lead. Wicks was subbed out for Milos Kocic eight minutes later.

Despite conceding the two goals, Wicks said he felt satisfied with how he fared against some of the world's best attacking players.

"I like it all," Wicks said. "I learned from all of it and it's a great experience for me to see where I want to get and where I have to get."

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