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February 10, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Who will be the backup goalkeeper in 2012? “It’s a battle,” says coach Sigi Schmid

backup gk.jpgWhile it might not be for a place in the starting lineup, the competition to be Sounders FC’s backup goalkeeper behind Michael Gspurning is getting fierce.

“It’s a battle,” coach Sigi Schmid said Friday. “Obviously Josh Ford is injured right now, and that’s unfortunate for Josh because I thought he did well for us (as the No. 3) last year. Bryan Meredith and Andrew Weber have performed very well, so we’re going to make some decisions here soon.

“It’s a very competitive situation.”

The Sounders plan to carry three goalkeepers in the upcoming season, and with Ford’s knee injury, only three healthy GKs remain from the group that started camp (Gspurning, Meredith and Weber). Seattle native Chris Blais, an MLS SuperDraft pick by San Jose in January, joined camp Friday, but he likely has some catching up to do.

As it stands right now, the battle to be the backup is between Weber (pictured, left) and Meredith (right). And with Sounders FC set to play 40-plus games in 2012, it’s an important position.

Let’s take a closer look.

Weber came to the Sounders after going unpicked in the offseason’s MLS Re-Entry Process; the Earthquakes had declined to pick up his option. The 28-year-old got his most playing time with the Montreal Impact a few years back, where he even got a CONCACAF Champions League game in 2008.

“He has some experience,” Schmid said. “We have to weigh that in the final consideration.”

Meredith, 22, as you can tell, is much younger. He has less than a year of MLS experience, having signed with the Sounders in September, but trained with the team off an on throughout 2011. After he didn’t get a contract before the MLS season, he joined the Kitsap Pumas of the PDL and helped lead them to the championship.

“On the development side, Meredith is fairly young,” Schmid said, “especially for a goalkeeper.”

The coach declined to say if age would be a tiebreaker in either case, saying there were a lot of things to consider.

One of those is contracts.

As an MLS veteran, Weber’s contract would be guaranteed for the entire 2012 season if he signs. I asked Schmid today if Weber has to win the No. 2 job so not to have that money locked into a third-string goalkeeper.

“No,” Schmid said. “Obviously if you sign a player who has experience in the league, it becomes a guaranteed contract and it makes more sense for that player to be the No. 2. But on the same token, if Meredith is performing well and deserves a slot, it doesn’t matter what the contract status is or where you are — if you’re on the 20-man roster or if you’re on the developmental roster.

“The better guys are going to get on the field. They all know that and that’s the expectation of competition. It’s a situation where we need three goalkeepers. Right now Josh is injured, so we’re not quite sure yet when he’ll be back. We’re trying to get real clarity on that at the beginning of this coming week, and then we’ll be able to make sure roster decisions based on that, as well.”

* * *

What do you think? In such a tight battle, do you place extra weight on experience?

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