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Sounders' Bryan Meredith finally rewarded for hard work
How badly did Bryan Meredith want to be an MLS goalkeeper? Enough to do double duty with morning practices with the Sounders and evening practices in Bremerton with the Kitsap Pumas? Absolutely.
Seattle Times staff columnist
In the mornings last season, Bryan Meredith would train with the Seattle Sounders, going through the grind of a long practice with goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra.
Then, later that day, he'd take a ferry across to Bremerton and do it all over again with coach Pete Fewing and the minor-league Kitsap Pumas.
The Commuting Keeper.
How many coaches in how many sports have asked their players, "How bad do you want it?" How many have barked that question at the end of practices as their bone-weary players were dragged through their final wind sprints?
How badly did Bryan Meredith want to be an MLS goalkeeper?
Bad enough to turn practices into daily doubles? Bad enough to take the round-trip ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton for a second tedious round of dives and swats and sweat? Bad enough to turn around and do it again the next day?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
"I think I've come a long way from last year to this year," Meredith said. "It has to do with training with Tommy. Putting in the hard work."
Some days last season, Dutra would tell Fewing, "Man, I worked Meredith into the ground yesterday." And Fewing would respond, "Wow, I didn't know that. We worked him into the ground last night."
In this early season, after the Sounders' regular keeper, Michael Gspurning, went down with a strained right hip, Meredith has been a lifesaver.
With no previous MLS experience, Meredith, 22, replaced Gspurning halfway through a win over the L.A. Galaxy. He followed that with shutout wins over Philadelphia and Dallas. He didn't give up a goal in his first 275 minutes, the third-longest streak to start an MLS career.
He finally allowed a goal in the second half of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, but months from the now, as the playoffs approach, this stretch from Meredith will be remembered as a turning point.
"Meredith: The Wall," a sign read Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
"I think I let the fans know there's a security blanket for Michael," Meredith said after the loss to RSL. "I know he'll be healthy soon, but I'll always be ready to step in."
The Sounders were tied 0-0 in the first half in Dallas last week, when Meredith expertly anticipated a header from Scott Sealy directed toward the top corner of the near post. Meredith shifted quickly left to right and swatted the ball away.
The save was world class and changed the direction of the game, a 2-0 Sounders win.
"That (save) was huge," Dutra said. "It was one of those 'wow' moments where you hoped he could pull that off, and then when he does pull it off, you're so happy for the kid. One thing we liked about Bryan last year, he had very good presence and a good feel for the game. That's so hard. You can't teach that."
After the save, defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado patted Meredith on the head, almost as if he were acknowledging that the young keeper belonged.
"Last year, we wanted to keep him around as long as we could and help get him up to MLS speed," Dutra said. "Going back and forth to Bremerton was very difficult for him, but he really had to go through those experiences last year to get where he's at right now."
Meredith was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2011 Super Draft. He was a talent as raw as a rug burn, who needed to work and needed a place to play. He found the work at the Sounders' Starfire training facility, and he found a game with the Pumas, whom he helped to the USL Premier Development League title.
"He's a very talented goalkeeper," said Fewing, now the coach at Seattle University. "He's good with his feet. Good punching the ball out. Has good hands. He's put in the work and now guys want to play for him.
"Last year as the season went on, he gained more confidence, more leadership and he was more organized. He has a lot of moxie and he makes everyone around him sharp and aggressive. He was a terrific leader for us. And this year he's become a much better professional. Give Tommy Dutra a lot of credit for that."
Now Dutra believes Meredith is playing well enough to be some team's No. 1 keeper.
"I had to see some things through preseason," Dutra said. "And once I saw him play some games in preseason, and then back those games up with good performances in training, it was like he was telling us, 'You know what? I'm staying here. I'm not going anywhere.' I think he's a guy that's going to be in this league for quite a while. He's got the mentality to make that happen."
The Commuting Keeper has shown his coach, his teammates and his fans just how badly he wants this.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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