PORTLAND, Ore. – Opening the 2022 campaign at Providence Park, the New England Revolution battled to take a point home from their back-and-forth, 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers.
While it’s no secret that Matt Turner is typically the squad’s number one keeper, Turner was not in the squad on Saturday as he rested a minor foot injury. Meanwhile, veteran Brad Knighton was listed on the availability report with a head injury.
With a string of injuries, it was Earl Edwards Jr. who rose to the occasion, making his debut for the club while stepping up into big shoes to fill.
Edwards Jr.’s most recent MLS minutes came on August 4, 2018 with Orlando City SC when he was in net to take a point in a 3-3 draw against, coincidentally, the New England Revolution.
“I haven't played a game since 2018 at this level, but with that in mind, it left me a lot of time to prepare, and I felt nothing but prepared going into this game," said Edwards Jr. "I had a lot of confidence going into it. I'm happy with my performance and hope to build on it moving forward.”
Waiting more than three years to play in an MLS regular season match, Edwards Jr. was very eager to take advantage of the opportunity, and head coach Bruce Arena commended his efforts in net.
“He did well,” said Arena. “He can’t be at fault for any of the goals. They scored two good goals. We made some mistakes in the back on both of the goals, but I think for Earl, his first game with us, he did very well.”
Edwards Jr. made three massive saves to keep the Revs in position to take home a point in Portland. The 30-year-old was locked in from the first whistle, and only five minutes in was put to the test to deny Santiago Moreno’s attempted strike to give Portland a hot start at home.
“It’s a situation where it's a pretty solid goal-scoring opportunity,” said Edwards Jr. “So, to make a save like that, I was definitely getting my feet wet and building confidence off of that. I think that played a big factor going into the rest of the game.
“I think it was good to be able to make that save and I think kind of instill confidence in the team that I can hold it down for us when need be. Yeah, it was a good moment for us.”
Edwards Jr. repeated that same mentality early in the second half, staying sharp with a pivotal save in the 46th minute to halt Dairon Asprilla’s strong ball down the center of the net, and when he and Andrew Farrell combined on a double save soon after.
“For me, I try to stay level-headed throughout games,” said Edwards Jr. “Farrell and I had a moment during the second half after the double save where we got pretty amped, but I tried to stay pretty level-headed, and I had a lot of confidence going into the game."
With the critical 90-minute shift, Edwards Jr. held his own, and his teammates were proud of his performance that played a key role in sending the squad home with a point.
“I thought he was incredible,” said Sebastian Lletget. “He kept us in the game. I thought they had a chance very early on, maybe five minutes in. You need your goalkeeper to make those saves to keep you in games.
"I thought that on such short notice, to come in and play, it was big-time from him. We needed that.”
As the Revs return to New England, the squad will look to bring the fight they showed in Portland to their home opener at Gillette Stadium this coming weekend on Saturday, March 5 against FC Dallas.