As you've probably heard by now, Bryan Meredith is going to start for the Seattle Sounders on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. Michael Gspurning has what the team has only called a "right hip injury" and is going to be out for 2-3 weeks.
Chances are, most of you have not seen much of Meredith. He's played three times in front of Sounders fans, and looked solid if unspectacular. His MLS debut was obviously on Wednesday, but before that he started for the Sounders in their CONCACAF Champions League game against Monterrey last year and he started for the Kitsap Pumas when they played the Sounders in U.S. Open Cup play.
In all three instances, he was faced up against pretty solid opponents and faired well. He allowed a pair of goals against Monterrey, actually came pretty close to stealing a result for the Pumas by making six saves in a 2-1 loss to the Sounders and generally looked confident against the Galaxy.
I'm not going to try to convince anyone that Meredith is on par with Gspurning, but I actually feel pretty good about him feeling in for the next few games. (And it will be a few games, as Sigi said Gspurning probably won't be back any earlier than the May 19 game at Vancouver.)
Since the Sounders plucked him out of relative obscurity to make a second round SuperDraft pick in 2011, he's done a lot maturing. He's really gotten himself into impressive shape and now is actually a somewhat imposing figure.
I asked him after Wednesday's game about his progression for last year and whether he was ready to be a MLS player a year ago:
"Honestly I don’t think so. The training you get from (goalkeeping coach) Tom Dutra has really helped me along. I’m a completely different player from last year to this year. My range on crosses has extended. Diving to cover more of the goal more this year than last year. It’s a testament to the training we do at practice everyday."
That he's now risen to the point that he'll almost certainly be starting at least a couple games is pretty remarkable when you think about it. At this time last year, he had already been cut by the Sounders, losing the No. 3 job to fellow rookie Josh Ford. Meredith continued to train with the Sounders, though, before the Pumas' season started.
He eventually won the starting job there, but got his chance to return to the Sounders after Terry Boss was ruled out for the year with a concussion. He came into camp this year with most people expecting him to once again fight Ford for the No. 3 job, but ended up in more of a battle with Andrew Weber for the backup spot.
The Sounders never really declared who was their backup, but that seemed to be more about the team really liking both Weber and Meredith. It was only after Weber hurt his ankle in a Reserve League game that Meredith became the undisputed No. 2.
Watching him in training, there really is a lot to like. He carries himself with plenty of confidence, but without a hint of arrogance. He's easy to like and seems to be very popular with teammates.
The Sounders have said they continue to think Meredith and Ford were two of the best goalkeepers to enter the draft in the past two years. I've been told they even graded Meredith above Zac MacMath, who went No. 5 overall in 2011 and will almost certainly be the Union's starter on Saturday.
Even if you aren't feeling super confident about Meredith, though, just remember that the Sounders have only faced 10 shots on goal over their past four matches. Assuming they can keep up that kind of defensive effort, Meredith might not be all that tested anyway.