Defying the critics, Troy Perkins steps up his game for Montreal Impact

MONTREAL – Fifteen games into his Montreal Impact career, Troy Perkins has certainly made good on his promise to Portland Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who felt trading Perkins for Donovan Ricketts was “an upgrade.”

As promised, Perkins answered the criticism with his performances.

It has been Perkins’ best start to an MLS season. He has conceded five goals – one a penalty kick – in six games, four of which he has won. Like they did during the home stretch of the 2012 season, the Montreal fans have embraced the 31-year-old as their No. 1 guy between the sticks.

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Humble and honest, Perkins felt, with No. 2 ‘keeper Evan Bush likely starting as Montreal’s Amway Canadian Championship campaign kicks off next Wednesday, that plaudits should also go to him, to third goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau and to goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha for the work they all put in.

“At the end of the day, it comes down not just to me, but also to Evan, Max and Youssef, to how hard we work every day and what’s expected out of us,” Perkins told reporters on Tuesday. “The tone that we set, the first day of preseason was ‘we want to be the best group of goalkeepers in the league.’”

Bush and Crépeau haven’t had a chance to prove their worth in competitive action this season, but Perkins certainly ranks among the top shot stoppers in the league these days. His save percentage (81 percent) puts him in second place among the ‘keepers that have played at least the current league minimum of five games.

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Yet goalkeeping is not just about stopping shots. It’s also about organizing what’s in front of you. And Dahha is thoroughly satisfied with his starter, whom he says must be a “second coach” on the field.

“I always say that while a goalkeeper doesn’t work for the players, the players do work for him,” Dahha said. “And he does help the players. If a player doesn’t do his job, of course the ball will end up in the box. So if the goalkeeper doesn’t manage, he’s going to suffer all game long, and to date, I think he manages the players very well, especially the midfield and defensive lines.”

Perkins concurs: “I wouldn’t say it’s [the back] four, it’s more like five, six, seven guys that have done a solid job … The guys in front of me are very knowledgeable, very experienced. For me, it doesn’t change a lot. I’m still going to tell them the same things. I’m still going to yell at them. I’m still going to do all that, because it keeps me involved.”