When Bryan Meredith started his MLS career, he reeled off 274 straight shutout minutes in net for the Sounders.
On Wednesday night, he returned to that form in shutting out one of the top-scoring teams in MLS in a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake.
It turns out, some time off may have been just what he needed to get back on track.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper made his first seven appearances over a 25-day stretch, giving him limited time to train and make adjustments.
When Andrew Weber took over starting duties after a 4-1 defeat to the Montreal Impact, it afforded Meredith that opportunity.
“There were a few things after playing a couple of games that Tommy Dutra and I wanted to work on and improve,” Meredith said, noting the extensive work he did with Seattle’s goalkeeper coach. “Having Andrew Weber step in was definitely a time to let me sit back and look at the games I played and assess them and figure out what it was that I might have been doing wrong to let in so many goals.”
The message to Meredith was clear – react and rely on your talents to make saves. And most importantly, relax.
He also benefits from knowing what to expect from himself when he steps on the field.
After the shutout streak came to an end against Real Salt Lake on May 12, he would give up nine goals over the next four matches as the Sounders slipped from the top of the standings. Weber took the starting role, but suffered a groin injury in his third start and Meredith came on at halftime against the New England Revolution. Only a stoppage time goal in the final seconds of the match prevented him from keeping the Revs off the board – as he did the LA Galaxy when he came on for the injured Michael Gspurning on May 2.
With two full matches to watch from the bench, three if you include the 1-0 win in the US Open Cup over the San Jose Earthquakes, Meredith approached the next stretch of games differently.
“I think it gave me a chance to prove myself and this opportunity rather than the last is a little more important because I know they have an expectation of me now and they know how I can play so they want me to exceed that expectation every single game,” he said.
With now three straight positive results, including the quarterfinal Open Cup victory over the Earthquakes, the Sounders are riding momentum into their nationally televised match on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
Now with three shutouts to his credit in just eight starts, Meredith and the Seattle defense are back in form too.
“It was a complete team effort tonight, for sure. It was an important game for me to play well in,” Meredith said. “There’s a lot of positive energy coming into our locker room after the game. It’s never fun to tie, but it wasn’t a tie like New England where they got a late goal. As long as we hold it to zero in the back, goals will start to come.”