Talk of goalie ‘controversy’ at the Chicago Fire is premature

by Ernesto Hernandez

 

One of the talking points coming out of the Chicago Fire’s draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps focused on the Fire’s goalie situation. That’s because it was David Ousted’s error in the 53rd minute that led to Vancouver’s goal.

Had this been a one-time thing, perhaps the error could be forgiven or chalked up to bad luck. But it is not the first time this season that an error such as this has occurred. Too often this season the Fire have conceded a goal because of a lack of communication between the defenders and the goalkeeper, or because of a goalkeeping mistake. There were similar mistakes in the games against the Los Angeles Galaxy and Orlando City.

With three mistakes in six games -two that cost the team points, the Seattle result notwithstanding-, the talk of swapping out goalkeepers has come into question. That is, for everyone except whose opinion matters in Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic.

When asked about Ousted’s error postgame, he said, “With regards to David’s error, we don’t have to look at it that way necessarily. I remember that last year you also brought up an error by Richard Sanchez. So, at the very least, we are a serious group. We work with criteria so we can’t blame or cut someone’s head off just like that.”

Paunovic stressed that, right now, they need to give confidence to the goalie and that mistakes such as those are part of the game.

“The goalie needs confidence just like we gave that confidence to other goalies in the past. They need confidence, continuity, supports including when they make a mistake, and we’ve always demonstrated that we give that to everyone. Therefore, I think that to open a controversy with regards to the goalie positions, it’s unnecessary. Especially publicly,” said Paunovic.

He’s right that the team has been patient and placed their confidence even when their goalkeepers have been struggling. One only needs to look back at the second half of last season and how long they stuck it out with Richard Sanchez. He mentioned that these things happen and they do. They are simply magnified because when it is the goalie committing these errors, they usually lead to a goal.

For Ousted’s part, he took full responsibility when asked about it after the game.

“I made a mistake, simple as that. I told the guys when I got in the locker room that I apologize for putting us in that hole and that was a mistake from my side. It hurts especially in a game like this where we needed three points and I think we had the majority of the chances, but that’s the nature of the position.” said Ousted.

Ousted was brought in this season to be the team’s first-choice goalkeeper with international and MLS experience in his repertoire. But as Ousted alluded to, that’s the nature of the position. No one truly notices a goalie unless they make a mistake.

With six games into the season, the talk of a goalie situation or controversy is premature. While Ousted has committed a few errors, he’s also made some spectacular saves to keep the Fire in most of their games this season.  If there is going to be any switch at keeper any time soon, it’s something that will be handled internally and not, as Paunovic mentioned, publicly.

The team brought in Ousted for a reason and he still gives them the best chance to win. All they can do now is continue to back him and hope that these are simply blips on the radar.

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