As the Sounders went into halftime on Wednesday night in their match against the LA Galaxy, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning felt discomfort in his right hip.
Without hesitation, Bryan Meredith charged out to the field to warm-up to play the second half.
While some of the 39,002 fans in the stadium may not have known what to think of the 22-year-old kid making his Major League Soccer debut, Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid had all the confidence in the world that Meredith could step in and get the job done against the Galaxy.
“My faith in Meredith is fantastic. The reason we brought him back into our team last year after he finished with Kitsap is because we think he’s a quality goalkeeper. That’s the reason we drafted him,” Schmid said of Meredith last week when Gspurning’s status became unclear. “We looked at our combine. We looked at Ryan Meara, who now plays for New York. And we felt that Meredith and Josh Ford were ahead of all of those guys. Ryan Meara is starting in the league. If Bryan Meredith was on a different team, he could be starting in this league.”
That vote of confidence from his coach was a boost for Meredith, who’s only appearance with the Sounders in 2011 was in a CONCACAF Champions League match – a sturdy performance in a 2-1 defeat to Monterrey, the eventual champions of the tournament.
The Sounders held a 1-0 lead after dominating the first half of play and carried that success over into the second half as Fredy Montero made it 2-0 with his 38-yard wonder-goal before Meredith even needed to touch the ball.
In the 62nd minute, Landon Donovan offered a test for Meredith, skipping a shot off the CenturyLink Field turf right into his awaiting arms. Otherwise, he was left to punch away and grab a few crosses and cover some balls that were headed wide of the net as he held the Galaxy scoreless in the final 45 minutes of the match to seal a 2-0 win.
“I didn’t really have much time to be nervous or realize anything but having that first early shot and relatively easy save helped me calm my nerves,” he said.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of Monmouth University in his native New Jersey, Meredith played the 2011 season with the Kitsap Pumas, leading the Bremerton-based club to the PDL championship before returning to the Sounders on a full-time basis to finish the season.
This year, he was splitting back-up duties with Andrew Weber, but was at the ready in the last 7-10 days because Gspurning was bothered by a hip injury.
As the final whistle blew, the crowd on hand celebrated and some saluted Meredith, seeing a glimpse of why Schmid held so much confidence in him.
“It’s tremendous for Bryan Meredith to come in and keep a clean sheet for 45 minutes. I think he showed what I said last week, in that I think there are a lot of teams in this league he can be starting for,” Schmid said. “He’s a quality goalkeeper and we have a lot of faith in him.”
Meredith will continue to be ready to start if Gspurning is unable to play against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. Gspurning was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday and his availability would likely become clear on Friday. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 pm from CenturyLink Field in a nationally-televised match on NBC Sports Network.