As crazy as it sounds, Bryan Meredith could find himself on the outskirts of getting into the United States national team picture.
Bryan Meredith has not allowed a goal in 225 minutes of MLS play. Let that sink in. A 22-year-old goalkeeper, who was cut last year, as recently as six months ago was commuting across Puget Sound to play for the fourth-division Kitsap Pumas and entered this year still fighting for a roster spot, has now posted back-to-back shutouts for the Seattle Sounders.
You could certainly argue that he was the beneficiary of some impressively stout defending in the first two appearances, only picking up a total of two saves in the process. But he earned the shutout on Wednesday. The save we're all going to remember came in the first half when he was able to deflect Scott Sealy's header off the crossbar and then was able to fall on the loose ball.
What was arguably as impressive, though, was the way he commanded his area. Just about every playable ball was safely punched away or grabbed. It was obvious that Meredith has been studying at a master of this skill, which, of course, he has been.
This may sound a bit crazy, and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but Meredith could quickly find himself sneaking into the national team picture.
This probably needs a little bit of clarification, less you think I'm sipping on the hyperbole juice.
No one questions who's at the top of the United States national team picture. Tim Howard, still just 33, is the man for the foreseeable future. After him, though? Nothing is clear.
Brad Guzan is probably the next in line. He's 27, but currently playing for Championship side Hull City. Aston Villa still owns his rights, but who knows where he ends up. For the sake of argument, though, we'll assume he's going to get better and assume the job at some point and be Howard's top backup until then.
It's even murkier beyond Guzan. Nick Rimando is basically a peer of Howard. He's a very good goalkeeper, but he may never get a real shot just because of his age.
The future of the position supposedly belongs to guys like Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, two guys who just helped "lead" the U-23s on a failed Olympic qualification campaign. More relevantly, neither are exactly tearing it up on their clubs.
Johnson continues to show that he's physically gifted, but shows a remarkable unawareness when it comes to how to position himself or how to play crosses. He could very well lose his job to Paolo Tornaghi.
Hamid, at times, has looked like an absolute lock to take over the position. He's got the size, the athleticism and seems to have the instincts to be a big-time goalkeeper. Yet, he's currently backing up Joe Willis.
Meredith, meanwhile, is proving perfectly competent and athletic at an equally young age. Granted, he's so far played a grand total of 405 minutes against first-division competition (including his starts against the Sounders in U.S. Open Cup and against Monterrey in CONCACAF Champions League). That's what we call a small sample size.
Still, you can see some promise. More relevantly, the battle for minutes beyond the top two goalkeepers is pretty much wide open. I won't be surprised if guys like Willis, rookie New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara or someone like Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy start to get looks. I'm not saying Meredith deserves to be capped or anything, but if he continues on this trajectory, it's not as crazy as it sounds. If he continues to improve at this rate, the chances of this happening are even more less far-fetched.