BRADENTON, Fla. – Cody Cropper will run through his first 2018 preseason training session with the New England Revolution on Tuesday morning, and when he does, he’ll find himself thrust into the midst of a heated battle for the Revs’ starting goalkeeper position.
Cropper, who spent the past three weeks training with the U.S. National Team as part of the annual January camp, started 28 of New England’s 34 regular-season games in 2017, marking his first full season as a number one at the professional level.
But new head coach Brad Friedel – one of the world’s top goalkeepers during his illustrious 22-year playing career – has made it clear that he wants open competition at every spot on the field, including between the sticks.
“There’s no number one, number two and number three right now, which is a great thing for us as a staff,” said Friedel. “You can see the competition so far.”
Veteran shot-stopper Brad Knighton started the Revolution’s final three games of 2017 and went 2-0-1, prompting the Revs to re-sign the free agent to a new deal in the offseason. The 32-year-old has made 59 appearances over a 10-year MLS career, and will be eager to lock down more minutes in 2018.
Third-year goalkeeper Matt Turner – the youngest of the group at 23 years old – has yet to make his first-team debut for the Revolution, but his confidence continues to grow after impressing during several loan stints with the Richmond Kickers last season.
Cropper, meanwhile, forced his way into the USMNT picture with a promising 2017 campaign that saw him record eight shutouts, and the 24-year-old now aims to continue building as he comes off a valuable experience with the national team.
“Cody hasn’t been in (yet), but both Brad and Matt have been working really hard and performing really well, and it’s down to them to make it a tough decision for us as a coaching staff,” said Friedel. “At some stage in the preseason we’ll decide who’s going to be the number one goalkeeper, but right now it’s up for grabs for everyone.”