By John Boyle Herald Writer
TUKWILA — A week ago, Andrew Weber was playing for Phoenix FC, a USL pro club. This week, he’s the starting goalkeeper for the Seattle Sounders.
Weber, a 29-year-old veteran who throughout his career has bounced between MLS clubs — including Seattle last year — and lower-division teams, was signed last week as an insurance policy. With backup goalie Marcus Hahnemann sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Sounders needed someone on the roster in case something happened to starter Michael Gspurning.
Then something happened to Gspurning. And just like that Weber, who joined the Sounders on loan from Phoenix on Thursday, was playing on Saturday.
So, you’ll have to excuse Sounders goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra if he’s a little stressed out this week.
“Well, this is an interesting time for sure,” Dutra said. “You’re trying to get guys ready who you haven’t worked with all year. Luckily, I’ve had Weber before, and we’re familiar with each other and he’s familiar with team. Just trying to get him up to speed, it’s difficult to be honest with you. It’s a very difficult time, one that’s kept me up the last couple of nights.”
Gspurning was scheduled to see a specialist Tuesday to determine the severity of the wrist/forearm injury that took him out of last weekend’s loss in San Jose. However, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and Dutra both all but ruled Gspurning out for Saturday’s game against Colorado.
That means Weber, who appeared in just five games for the Sounders last year in all competitions, will start what amounts to, considering Seattle’s recent struggles, a must-win home game. Yet even if playing in front of nearly 40,000 fans will be a bit of a change from playing for Phoenix FC, Weber said nothing changes for him this week when it comes to preparation.
“You always go out and train like you’re going to be playing,” he said. “That’s the main focus. You’ve always got to keep that mindset that you’ve got to be ready, and on the training field is where the game starts, so you have to be ready at all times.”
San Jose’s game winner was scored just after Weber came into the game, but it was more the result of a defensive lapse than goalkeeper play, and he, Schmid and Dutra all felt things went well for the most part, all things considered.
“I thought it went well,” Weber said. “I wasn’t nervous. I’m comfortable with the team, and the guys playing in front of me. It was a crazy game — we had three injuries in one game — so it was a crazy game to go into. … But it’s just a game, so you just step in and play.”
Weber, who also has had stints with MLS teams D.C. United and San Jose, might have been able to stay in the league this year as a backup, but his decision to go to Phoenix where he could get regular playing time has improved his game.
“Getting the games is huge,” Dutra said. “Getting the games is very important. … He looks a little bit calmer in goal. He went in in the second half and he looked calmer now. He’s played a lot of games with Phoenix so he has that game experience. I was very happy with his performance in the second half in San Jose.”
Seattle also had former backup Bryan Meredith at practice Tuesday, but he is not under contract and, according to Schmid, could end up with Phoenix FC, which now needs a goalkeeper because of injuries. League pool goalkeeper Doug Herrick likely will be the backup this weekend.
While Weber’s time as Seattle’s starter will be limited — Gspurning or Hahnemann, whoever gets healthy first, will take over as soon as possible — this game and perhaps a few more could provide a big opportunity for Weber going forward.
“Andrew knows this is an opportunity for him and he doesn’t want to lose out on this opportunity,” Dutra said. “When he left here last year, I said, ‘Look, you never know how things are going to work out one way or another,’ and he’s taken advantage of his opportunities, and I hope the best for him on Saturday.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.