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February 17, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Tom Dutra: ‘I feel like our goalkeeping corps is very strong again this year.’

I spoke with Sounders FC goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra after practice Monday. The chat covered the strength of the group, updates on Stefan Frei, Josh Ford and trialist John McCarthy, plus how he feels about the new ball in the league this season.

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(Over the years, you’ve always said you feel you have one of the strongest goalkeeping groups in the league. This year, some might feel this might be one of the few times you don’t have a top Goalkeeper of the Year contender coming in. Do you still feel this is one of the stronger groups in MLS?) “I still feel that way. Absolutely. With Marcus (Hahnemann) coming back and Josh coming back and obviously adding Stefan to the group, I feel like our goalkeeping corps is very strong again this year. They’re each pushing each other and we have a young kid who’s pushing Josh — that’s what you want. I feel strongly about the group, for sure.”

(What have you known about Stefan Frei that you were going to give him this opportunity here — to compete for the No. 1 spot — despite not really having played for two years?) “He’s had to deal with a bit of injuries and been unfortunate just to take some bad injuries at the wrong time the last couple years, but I’ve always liked him. I remember when he played at Cal I liked him. I liked him in 2009 when he was coming out to the combine. He was very good, very composed — unbelievably good hands. His hands are really good. He naturally has good hands, which for the position always helps.”

(How has he come into a new group, and one that is already pretty established with Marcus and Josh here?) “He’s like a sponge right now, taking it all in. He’s been so much fun to work with. He’s just taking it all in. Just right now we were walking off the field talking about what are some things he feels he needs to work on and what are some things I feel he needs to work on. But he’s been like a sponge. He’s been a joy to work with, to be honest with you.”

(It’s hard to believe this is Josh Ford’s fourth year now but how is he doing?) “He’s doing well. He’s a guy that we all like on the field and off the field. He’s great in the locker room, and I’m hoping this is the year he stays healthy, because we’ve invested a lot of time in him. He’s invested a lot of time of making sure he’s strong in rehab and ready to go. We’ve had to manage him as well as Marcus and Stefan and John McCarthy in making sure we don’t send them out every session and kill them, but make sure that they get their work and make sure they rehab properly. The big thing for Josh was to play that 30 minutes down in Tucson and then come back and play 60 minutes in a game situation (Saturday) in the stadium, where he played very well. He played 60 minutes against our first group that day, our first group of attackers, and did very well.”

(Is there anything you can tell us about John McCarthy, who you said is pushing Josh for the No. 3 spot?) “He’s a kid that we had at our Vegas combine. I didn’t know much about him. I’d heard a lot of good things about him. He’s long, lanky kid that has an ability to make some good saves. At the game the other day, he made two huge saves at the very end to keep his team in it. He did well. He’s doing well. He’s pushing every day. He’s going to come with us to Charleston and keep going. We’ll give him some time down there and see how he does.”

(What do you make of the new ball?) “I like it better. I like it. I like the ball. It’s not as bad as 2010 and 2011. I like the ball, and the ‘keepers like it, so that’s the most important thing.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats

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