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2023 Crew season preview: Goalkeeper

There’s a good blend of veterans and youth in front of goal for the Black & Gold.

SOCCER: SEP 18 MLS - Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The start to the 2023 Major League Soccer season is less than a month away. As we head to the new year, Massive Report takes a look at the Columbus Crew’s position groups as they currently stand and break down what we expect from those positions in the coming season. We begin with goalkeepers.

Throughout the history of the Columbus Crew, goalkeeper has been a position of strength. Going back to Brad Friedel and working all the way to Zack Steffen, the Crew has more often than not had talent in front of the goal.

That will continue in 2023 when the Black & Gold have a familiar group of goalkeepers all returning to the team. Let’s dive into what options Columbus has at the goalkeeper position.

Eloy Room

Set to enter his fifth season with the Crew, Room is the unquestioned starter for the team. Room, who joined the Black & Gold in the summer of 2019 following Steffen’s departure for Manchester City, has played 93 games for Columbus, recording 264 saves and 24 shutouts.

Over that time, there has been some frustration with Room from fans because he is not a do-everything goalkeeper. While he can play with his feet, it is not his strongest attribute. Room also has issues at times coming off the line on crosses.

What Room does well, however, is making saves that keep the ball out of the goal. During his time in MLS, Room has a goals against average of 1.17, which would rank him among the best goalkeeper in the league over that time. In two of Room’s three full MLS seasons, the Crew has had a top-four defense in the league. This included Room’s two playoff appearances on the way to winning the 2020 MLS Cup where he allowed one goal and recorded one clean sheet.

In 2023, Room will again provide a steady veteran presence behind the Black & Gold defense and a player who will do what’s necessary to keep the ball out of the net. There is not much pressure behind him, so expect Room to be Columbus’ starter throughout the year unless something significant changes.

Evan Bush

A 12-year veteran of MLS, Bush knows a thing or two about the league and what it takes to be successful. He has appeared 188 times in MLS play and was a regular starter for CF Montreal for six seasons.

Bush came to the Crew in 2021, looking to work with former head coach Caleb Porter and was accepting of his backup role behind Room. In his two seasons with the Black & Gold, Bush has started four games in MLS play with one shutout.

What Bush brings is a solid backup that Columbus can count on if something were to happen to Room. He works hard in training each day to push the starter in front of him and stays ready in case an opportunity arises. He also has the added benefit of some familiarity with new head coach Wilfried Nancy, who was an assistant in Montreal during five of Bush’s seasons playing for the Canadian side.

Patrick Schulte

A second-year professional goalkeeper, Schulte was the Crew’s first-round MLS SuperDraft pick prior to last season out of Saint Louis University. Schulte did not make an appearance for the Black & Gold first team as a rookie.

Instead, Schulte saw action as part of Crew 2 in the MLS NEXT Pro reserve league. Splitting time with Brady Scott, Schulte helped the Black & Gold win the first MLS NEXT Pro title with the best record and best defense in the league. Schulte was named the MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year following the season.

This year, Schulte is likely to spend more time with Crew 2 given the depth of the position on the roster. Given his willingness to give young players opportunities, however, Nancy could turn to Schulte in U.S. Open Cup matches to get the young goalkeeper first-team minutes. This is, of course, if Schulte continues to progress into Year 2 as a pro and earns the right to see the field for the Black & Gold on the senior level.

Brady Scott

Like Schulte, Scott is a young goalkeeper but will be in his fourth season in MLS in 2023 after playing a year each with Nashville SC, Austin FC and then Columbus. Also like Schulte, Scott did not see any action with the Crew’s first team — he has not played any MLS minutes so far for any team — and instead spent much of last season with Crew 2.

While Schulte eventually took hold of the Black & Gold reserve team’s starting goalkeeper job, Scott played a key part in helping Columbus have the best defense in MLS NEXT Pro with the two goalkeepers rotating by game until late in the year.

Scott will continue to grow and develop this season while competing with Schulte for the Crew’s No. 3 job.

Final thoughts

The Black & Gold goalkeeping spot is in good hands. Room is about as good of a goalkeeper as this league has when it comes to making saves, which is the No. 1 job for any goalkeeper. Bush would be more than capable of stepping in if Room were to miss any time in 2023 given his ability and experience in MLS.

In Schulte and Scott, Columbus has two possible goalkeepers of the future that need to continue to improve and stay ready for an opportunity. Crew 2 will continue to provide minutes for these goalkeepers to play while working with the first team on a daily basis in practice.