FRESNO, Calif. – It seemed like a lost year for Brian Perk in 2013. The LA Galaxy goalkeeper was on the sidelines most of the season, dealing primarily with concussion issues, and saw action in only six games, all in the MLS Reserve League.
Injuries to Jaime Penedo and Brian Rowe and the departure of Italian veteran Carlo Cudicini has given Perk ample minutes during preseason, and he's starting to take the kind of strides forward he's hoped to traverse last year.
He went the full 90 in LA's 2-1 triumph Saturday night over the San Jose Earthquakes, in the Central California Cup exhibition at Chukchansi Park, securing the victory with a late, one-on-one stop against a streaking Sam Garza.
“It feels really good,” the fifth-year veteran said afterward. “Toward the end of the second half, I started feeling I was putting things together in my mind, just which balls to come for, [when to] stay, different parts of the game I feel like I'm getting a good grasp on.
“Definitely, I have confidence. From the first preseason game until now, it seems like day and night almost.”
Perk, a UCLA product from Orange County, has made just five MLS appearances and played in nine first-team competitive matches since coming to the Galaxy from Philadelphia about two-thirds through his rookie season, in 2010. He's served as a backup to Donovan Ricketts, Josh Saunders, Cudicini and Penedo but last year slipped to third or fourth on the depth chart after undergoing sports-hernia surgery during preseason, then suffering concussions in reserve matches in June and July.
“This is an important time in his career,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “And he's starting to get some important minutes in the preseason to help him make some progress. ... He's healthy and certainly having a good preseason.”
Last year was a frustrating experience for Perk, but he says he grew as a goalkeeper just by watching the Galaxy's other keepers – especially Cudicini, a veteran of Italy's Serie A and England's Premier League, and Penedo, LA's No. 1 netminder from his arrival at the start of August – from the bench or the stands.
“It was a little bit of a learning experience to just sit down and watch the other guys play, instead of being there [on the field],” Perk said. “I worked on some things fitness-wise, which I think is helping me now. I think I gained a little bit, but maybe just a little bit.”
Cudicini, who turned 40 last September, served as a mentor.
“Last year I was with Carlo a lot, and just talking – more the mental side, especially with him, he's helped me a lot,” Perk said. “Dealing with certain situations, how to handle and prepare for them. I learned a ton from Carlo and have to thank him for that.”