FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Cody Cropper waited 550 days for another opportunity.
The 26-year-old goalkeeper was the New England Revolution’s number one for most of the 2017 season, but after a 6-1 loss to Orlando City SC on September 27, 2017, Cropper lost the starting job to Brad Knighton for the season’s final three games.
Matt Turner then won the role to start the 2018 season, backed up by Knighton as Cropper found himself third on the depth chart and without a clear path to first-team minutes. He didn’t play a single game for the Revolution in 2018, in league play or the U.S. Open Cup.
“It’s been a grind – mentally, physically, emotionally,” said Cropper. “There’s been ups and downs, and that’s part of professional sports. That’s part of this business. Every player at some stage in their career has gone through that.”
Through it all, Cropper kept himself ready for whenever – or wherever – his next opportunity would arrive. He trained hard, supported his teammates, and kept the faith that his time would come.
That time finally came on Saturday afternoon, when Cropper earned the start against Minnesota United FC. He made two saves in the Revs’ 2-1 win, his first victory in one year, six months, and seven days.
“To go out there today and put a 90-minute performance together for the first time since 2017 … I can’t even describe the feeling right now,” Cropper said. “Every time I talk about it, I’m just getting goosebumps. It’s what I was born to do. I’ve played this game since I was three years old and it’s what I love.”
Cropper’s highlight moment on Saturday arrived in the 29th minute when he reacted quickly to get a strong left hand on Francisco Calvo’s close-range header, doing just enough to push the effort onto the crossbar and keep the match, at the time, 1-1.
But perhaps just as impressive was a pair of decisive, instinctual plays either side of halftime, when Cropper raced off his line to clear through balls before Minnesota attackers could run onto them. It was those types of plays, in particular, that captured just how sharp Cropper was on the day.
“It’s kind of a gut instinct,” Cropper said of the decisions on when to rush off his line. “One of the conversations I had with (assistant coach) Ruben (Garcia) and one of the conversations I had with (head coach) Brad (Friedel) before the game was to trust my instinct. Whether it was on my distribution, whether it was on my decision to come out, whether it was on a decision to catch or parry, to do the simple things.
“Today, I trusted myself. In the past, when you don’t play games for a very long time, you sometimes tend to second-guess yourself. Today, I just went out there and I trusted my ability. I trusted everything that I’ve worked on the last year and a little bit, since the 2017 season, and it panned out for me.
“I hope to continue that down the road.”
Cropper has very likely earned himself another start next Saturday night in Columbus, where the Revs will look to build a bit of momentum in an early-season rematch with Crew SC (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Boston, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA).