FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When goalkeeper Cody Cropper signed with the New England Revolution back in mid-August, he set his sights on making his MLS debut before the 2016 season came to a close.
The 23-year-old shot-stopper had to wait two months to accomplish that objective – toiling behind both Brad Knighton and Bobby Shuttleworth – but eventually Cropper got his wish, making a pair of strong saves in a 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Impact on Sunday afternoon in the Revolution’s 2016 finale.
“It’s something that I’ve been asking Jay (Heaps) and Remi (Roy) since the first day I got here,” Cropper said of getting first-team minutes. “It was kind of my want, and I accomplished what I wanted, and that was keeping a clean sheet.”
Sunday’s finale was the perfect opportunity for Cropper to get his first taste of MLS action. Knighton was suspended and the MLS Cup Playoffs were all but out of reach, making it a relatively low pressure situation for Cropper to step into at Gillette Stadium.
“He did a good job,” said Heaps. “I think the first half was a little bit feeling it all out, feeling out when he should come and when he shouldn’t come, but the second half, he was a completely different player. He found himself and I was happy that we were able to do that.
“That’s why you play a guy like that in this moment, to give him that kind of experience.”
Cropper was relatively untroubled in the first half as the Revs controlled the tempo, but he stayed sharp and was ready when first called upon in the 48th minute, moving to his left to parry a rasping effort from David Choiniere.
“A lot of what I had to do in the first half was all with my feet, kind of just trying to stay mentally tuned in,” Cropper said. “It was hard because [I didn’t have] a lot to do.
“But I went into the second half kind of going, ‘I’m going to have to make a save here sooner or later.’ I just pushed it away, and that got me going, and that got the team going. It was good.”
Cropper’s best save was yet to come, though, as he dove low to his right to push Anthony Jackson-Hamel’s goal-bound effort around the post in the 57th minute.
Sunday’s performance was the culmination of Cropper’s first two months with the Revolution, having spent that time settling into the area and getting acclimated to life with a new club. Having found a comfort zone, he’ll push forward into 2017 with his sights set on battling for the starting goalkeeper spot.
“I’ve felt really welcome here since I’ve been here,” Cropper said. “I’ve bonded really well with a lot of the players, so it’s good to have that support and that welcoming.”