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2021 Crew season preview: Goalkeepers

The Black & Gold have some strong candidates protecting the net this year.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season technically already began for the Columbus Crew due to CONCACAF Champions League play, but the MLS champions don’t begin the defense of their league title until Sunday when Supporters’ Shield winners the Philadelphia Union come to historic Crew Stadium. Despite brining home a championship last year, the Black & Gold still made a number of changes to the team’s roster to be ready to compete on multiple fronts this season.

As part of our preseason preview, Massive Report will go position by position and give readers a breakdown of what to expect in the coming year. We begin with the goalkeepers.

Eloy Room

Entering his third season with the Crew, and second full campaign, Columbus fans know what they are getting in Room. The Curaçao National Team goalkeeper is an experienced veteran who now understands MLS and what it takes to win in this league. He also now has a winner’s medal.

In 2020, Room started all 17 games in which he played — he dealt with injuries that saw him miss time — in the regular season, allowing just 15 goals for a goals against average of 0.88. Room record seven shutouts in his first full season in MLS, tied for third best in the league. He finished third in Goalkeeper of the Year voting but won MLS’s Save of the Year for his two diving denials against Orlando City. Room played two games in Columbus’ run to the MLS Cup, allowing two goals but getting a shutout in the final.

Heading into 2021, Room is the unquestioned starter for the Crew. He already managed one shutout in the first leg of the Round of 16 Champions League and looks to add to that throughout the season. Room would like to have a healthier campaign in his third season with the Black & Gold after missing six starts a year ago.

If Room is able to maintain his level of play from last season, it will go a long way to helping Columbus to have one of the league’s best defensive records again in 2021.

Evan Bush

When Room was out last year, it was Andrew Tarbell who stepped in during seven games, six starts. Tarbell’s impressive play earned him a spot on expansion side Austin FC in the offseason, which meant the Crew needed a backup the team could rely on, especially since Room will likely miss time with his national team at the Gold Cup.

The Black & Gold traded for MLS veteran and Ohio native Evan Bush in mid-December, sending $125,000 in General Allocation Money to the Vancouver Whitecaps for the goalkeeper. While it hasn’t officially been announced, Bush is the No. 2 for Columbus, as evidenced by how much he played in preseason when Room was away with Curaçao.

Bush brings nine years of MLS experience to the Black & Gold, split between CF Montreal and the Whitecaps. He played 184 MLS regular season games for Montreal before he was traded to Vancouver in September. He made eight appearances for the Whitecaps last year, allowing 10 goals.

In Columbus, the 35 year old will be asked to stay ready as the No. 2 behind Room. Black & Gold fans saw the value of a quality backup goalkeeper a year ago and will hope Bush can provide that when Room does have to miss time.

Matt Lampson

After returning to the Crew last season following four years away, Lampson served as the team’s third goalkeeper but did not see the field. While that wasn’t good news for the former Homegrown signing, it did mean Columbus didn’t have to go that far down the depth chart at the position.

Despite being third-choice a year ago, Lampson has plenty of experience in MLS. After his contract ran out with the Black & Gold following the 2015 season, Lampson spent two seasons with the Chicago Fire, starting 35 games. He then was traded to Minnesota United where he played nine times in 2018 before he was released. Lampson was selected by the LA Galaxy in the Re-Entry Draft but made just one appearance before signing back with the Crew as a free agent ahead of 2020.

This year, Lampson will compete for the third-string spot yet again in Columbus. There may be more opportunities for Lampson this year with the Crew involved in as many as three competitions throughout the season.

Eric Dick

In January’s Re-Entry Draft, the Black & Gold selected Dick. This came after trading veteran backup Jon Kempin to D.C. United.

Dick was a first-round pick by Sporting Kansas City in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft but spent much of his two seasons at Children’s Mercy Park on loan with Swope Park Rangers, the Tulsa Roughnecks and Phoenix Rising, all USL teams. Dick made just one appearance for Sporting, conceding six goals.

With the Crew, Dick will contend with Lampson for the third-string goalkeeper spot with the loser potentially heading out on loan.