The signing of goalkeeper Greg Sutton was met with some apathy by Red Bulls’ fans as Bouna Coundoul had finished last season as the team’s clear cut starter.
Coupled with the fact that Sutton was replacing fan favorite Danny Cepero - the 'keeper who manned the goal during New York’s improbable 2008 playoff run that resulted in the team’s first ever MLS Cup appearance - and it’s easy to understand why Sutton wasn’t an instant fan favorite. Nothing much was expected of Sutton this year.
But all of a sudden, Sutton is getting cheers from the Red Bulls’ faithful.
The veteran goalkeeper and Canadian international has been an integral part of the team this year in the U.S. Open Cup, starting all three of the team’s matches and leading the team to victory each time. Sutton has been very solid in every game, making a number of key saves in the cup match against Philadelphia.
In May, Sutton was also busy in the Red Bulls’ 3-1 defeat of UEFA Champions League side Juventus. He made one save after another, not conceding a goal until the game’s final gasp. Sutton sprawled and dove his way to a stellar performance.
“Any time you’re out there on the field, you want to win,” Sutton told MLSSoccer.com. “You always want to perform well and do your best, whether it is a cup game or a friendly against a European side.”
Sutton is very quietly making a push for time in league action, with his solid play and veteran leadership on display in cup matches instilling confidence in the coaching staff. The keeper said that it isn’t a concern to him - he’ll keep showing up every day for training no matter what happens.
“When you’re a veteran player, which is what I consider myself to be, you go out there and do your job,” Sutton said. “Everything else doesn’t matter much. The coaching staff knows what I can do and we’ve had discussions about my role and I understand what is going on completely. I simply need to be ready if and when my time comes.”
Of course, as a keeper, Sutton has watched one World Cup gaffe after another by goalkeepers. He said he feels badly for his colleagues based on personal experience earlier in his career.
He estimates it was 2000 or 2001 in a game against the Montréal Impact. Sutton came out to play a corner kick on what he says was a swerving ball. He was set to make the challenge, he had timed everything right, but then…
“I completely missed the ball, it went through my hands,” Sutton said. “I was embarrassed, it was maybe the worst goal I ever gave up.”
And Sutton takes to the practice field every day, one of the first ones on the field and one of the last ones off, always striving to make himself better.
“Whether my role is to start or be on the bench, it is my job to always be ready,” Sutton said. “And that’s what I do every day, work towards being ready.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012