Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton is no stranger to shutouts.
The 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year earned 12 clean sheets last season, two more than the next best tally. His goals-against average of .87 was the second lowest mark of all time.
Last Saturday, in his first start of the 2010 season, Thornton returned to familiar territory, minding the net for the Red-and-White’s 2-0 shutout victory against New York at the Home Depot Center.
“That was the start of my season, so I’m glad it was a good one,” said Thornton after the win. “There’s always some nerves before you first game of the season, but once the game got underway, I felt really comfortable.”
The 36-year-old ‘keeper looked solid in his debut, plucking a few good crosses out of the air and parrying a number of long shots over the crossbar. He even had a hand in creating the team’s second goal, sending a long goal kick up the field to Jesús Padilla that started the breakaway.
“It was late in the game, so we didn’t want to be playing out of the back,” said Thornton of the 91st-minute strike. “I just went long and he knocked it down and went from there.”
Thornton had sustained a thigh injury during U.S. National Team Camp in February that had prevented him from playing in the first two games of the season. Now healthy, he looks poised for another strong season.
“I feel pretty good,” said Thornton. “The new system looks good. We’re all getting on the same page now, which is the most important thing.”
One of Thornton’s tasks for 2010 will be to get acquainted with new Chivas USA center-backs Michael Umaña and Darío Delgado. The three will likely form the core of the Red-and-White defensive unit this season and will need to be on the same page.
Although, if Saturday’s match is any indication, they should be fine.
“It went well,” said Thornton of playing with Umaña and Delgado, neither of whose first language is English. “Even in practice, it’s just kind of clicked. Soccer is soccer. We’re all trying to do the same things. Even in a different language, it’s pretty similar.”
Chivas USA now prepare for a road trip to Houston on Saturday, where Thornton will square off against another two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in Pat Onstad.
And while Thornton would certainly love another shutout, he’d be happy with just a plain old victory as well.
“A win is a win,” he said. “We’ll take three points any way we can get them.”