'Keeper Walker fits right in with Crew

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Jon Busch went down with a season ending knee injury on May 25, it was apparent that the Columbus Crew were in the market for another goalkeeper.

After all, Busch's backup, Matt Jordan, was already injured and that only left one healthy goalkeeper, rookie Bill Gaudette, on the roster. While Gaudette cannot be blamed for the poor record in his five starts (the Crew lost three games and tied one, allowing 10 goals), Columbus was looking for a veteran to tend the nets.

After much looking, the Crew finally found their man in MLS and Chilean first division veteran Jonny Walker, a player who has more appearances with the U.S. national team than Busch.

"He is a quality goalkeeper," said Crew coach Greg Andrulis. "His experience and maturity is a good settling influence on the guys."

Walker made his debut for the Crew in the 1-0 loss to D.C. United last weekend, the lone goal coming through an own goal when a pass deflected off defender Chad Marshall.

"I have been here just over a week. It is been fantastic so far," said Walker.

Walker was not available to play against the Kansas City Wizards the previous Wednesday because the Wizards waited to release Tony Meola, whom the MetroStars were waiting to clear waivers before trading Walker. In addition, the Wizards had to relinquish the rights to Meola, and they wanted to wait until after playing the Crew in the midweek encounter.

"It was disappointing, but it is in the past. I had myself mentally prepared to play in that game and I traveled with the team, but unfortunately the paperwork wasn't ready," said Walker.

While the Black and Gold's newest member hails from Memphis, he has connections to Ohio. His wife Shaunna is from Celina in northwest Ohio.

In addition to the family ties to the area, forwards Cornell Glen and John Wolyniec were both his teammates with the MetroStars last season. Walker came to the MetroStars during the 2003 season to replace Tim Howard following six successful seasons in Chile, including four at Universidad Catolica, a squad the Crew defeated in a friendly earlier this season.

Walker is known for his ability to play the ball with his feet in the back. He attributes the skills to the rule change that no longer allowed the goalkeeper to pick up the ball when played back by a defender with his feet.

"The rule change with the pass back was implemented just before I went to college," said Walker. "It really changed the game. You had to play with your feet."

While the footwork skills give him an added advantage for distributing the ball out of the back, he readily admits that it makes some people nervous.

"I might enjoy it a little too much for certain people, but it is one of those things that I do like to do," said Walker.

John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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