Dallas Burn goalkeeper Jeff Cassar was named Honda MLS Player of the Week for the first time in his career by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association (PSRA) for the week ending July 11, 2004 (Week 15). Cassar preserved a midweek 2-1 road victory over the San Jose Earthquakes with a save on an injury time penalty kick and earned his first shutout of the year three days later in a scoreless tie at home against the Columbus Crew at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
In the victory at San Jose, a team that had beaten the Burn in eight straight matches, Cassar made two critical saves which allowed Dallas to snag three road points. With the score tied 1-1, a pass by San Jose's Landon Donovan found teammate Brian Ching behind the Burn defense about five yards from goal. Cassar flung himself toward Ching's feet and was able to parry the ball away before the striker was able to get the shot off. Cassar then preserved the win in the final seconds of stoppage time, making a spectacular save to his right on a penalty kick by Donovan.
The Burn goalkeeper continued his superb play later in the week in a home game against the Columbus Crew on July 10. The 30-year old earned his first shutout of the year and registered a highlight-reel save on a shot by the Crew's Edson Buddle in the 38th minute. Columbus midfielder Kyle Martino coolly split two Burn defenders with a pass to teammate Eric Denton, whose low cross found the unmarked Buddle crashing into the heart of the area. But Cassar leapt to deny the striker's first-time effort from six yards.
"I'm just happy to be playing and happy that the team is doing well," said Cassar. "We're starting to come together as a team very nicely and I'm glad that I'm able to be a part of that. I feel good right now and I feel sharp. Our goalkeeper coach (Jan Van Beveren) has me feeling confident and I'm just trying to keep it rolling."
The Michigan native, the first Dallas player to earn Player of the Week honors this year, began the season as a backup to starter Scott Garlick but has started the club's last six games in place of the injured Garlick. Cassar was originally selected with the 8th pick of the 1996 College Draft by the Dallas Burn and spent five years with the Miami Fusion before returning to the Burn in March of 2003 following a short stint at English Premier League side Bolton during the spring.
Chicago Fire All-Star goalkeeper Henry Ring and Kansas City Wizards forward Davy Arnaud, who won the award last week, also received votes for the weekly award. The Honda Major League Soccer Player of the Week is selected every week throughout the MLS regular season by a panel of journalists from the Professional Soccer Reporters Association (PSRA).
2004 PLAYER OF THE WEEK WINNERS:
Week 1: Jaime Moreno (D.C. United)
Week 2: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 3: Fabian Taylor (MetroStars)
Week 4: Carlos Ruiz (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 5: Henry Ring (Chicago Fire)
Week 6: Jovan Kirovski (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 7: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 8: Alejandro Moreno (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 9: Jovan Kirovski (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 10: Pat Noonan (New England Revolution)
Week 11: Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew)
Week 12: Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United)
Week 13: Amado Guevara (MetroStars)
Week 14: Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards)
Week 15: Jeff Cassar (Dallas Burn)