It’s been since 2014 — Gregg Berhalter’s first year in charge — that Columbus Crew SC has entered the preseason without a starting goalkeeper.
That season, Homegrown Matt Lampson and newcomer Steve Clark, a veteran of 94 appearances for Norway’s Hønefoss BK, battled for the starting spot between the pipes. Clark won the battle and started 100 games for the Black & Gold over three seasons.
Following 2016, Crew SC did not pick up the option on Clark, meaning the club was looking for a new starting netminder.
Remaining on the roster is Brad Stuver, who played his first two Major League Soccer matches in the final two games of the regular season last year. Stuver was selected fourth overall in the 2013 waiver draft and is entering his fourth season with the club.
At 25 years old, Stuver is still young for a goalkeeper and looking to take over the starting spot after sitting and learning behind Clark for three seasons.
Speaking of young keepers, Zack Steffen at 21 defines youth. He signed with Crew SC last July after spending two two seasons with German club SC Freiburg. Before that, Steffen played two seasons at Maryland and has with the United States U-23s and U-20s.
Logan Ketterer is a 23-year old rookie out of Bradley University who was selected by Columbus in the MLS SuperDraft.
While Berhalter has seen some of Stuver and Steffen from their time with the team, he entered the preseason in evaluation mode.
“To be honest, we haven’t done enough to fully evaluate them in training so far this year,” Berhalter said after the first week of training in Brazil. “I think Brad and Zack are both capable goalkeepers. Together with Logan, we have I think a good goalkeeping core. That’s not to say we wouldn’t add someone. That’s going to be based on performance. But overall I think we have a good goalkeeping group.”
With the regular season kicking off in less than a month, and the first stage of preseason complete, Berhalter is still searching for an opening day starter.
“I would say we’re still in the middle of that process,” he said on Thursday. “We’re not all the way there yet. I think both goalies did well in this camp. They put good effort into the training, into the games and we’re still evaluating. So we’re not completely there with who’s going to be the No. 1 keeper to start the season. But like other positions on the field, it’s still up for grabs.”
Berhalter has also left open the possibility of bringing in another goalkeeper. He recently said it’s possible that Crew SC adds anywhere from one to three more players before the start of the season. If he does not see what he wants from the three currently on the roster over the next two stages of preseason, expect the team to make a move.
Although the season kicks off on March 4, Berhalter remains unconcerned with no starting keeper at this point believing there is still plenty of time for one player to emerge.
“We look at it like any other position where there’s a certain amount of time that the position needs and the player needs to get fit and to perform at his highest level,” he said. “So what I would say is not one of the 11 positions, guys are at peak level yet and as we move into the latter stages of preseason, we should start to see that. Obviously we have a good idea of what they can bring already, but we’re expecting to see now the competition play out, but that’s the goal in these next couple weeks.”