As the start of the season quickly approaches, the FC Dallas coaching staff will have a tough decision to make in deciding who will be the starting goalkeeper for the team.
Jeff Cassar and Scott Garlick are in a battle for the first-choice role, as both 'keepers continue to impress coaches for the position.
Coincidentally, both players are competitors on the field and good friends off. Cassar entered the league in 1996 and Garlick in 1997, and they each have been around the league at various ports of call.
"We have both been professionals for 10 years, and we understand that none of this is personal. It's about the professional side of it," said Garlick.
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke has noted the close competition between the goalposts. But the question still remains: Who will get the nod as the starting 'keeper?
"You know what, I have no idea. It's been a close race, the coaches have said -- I feel confident once I get in there," said Cassar. "I'd like to be in there, I feel like last year was a good year for myself and the team and I'd like to continue that."
The preseason has been long and both players are ready to lace up the boots and get on the pitch. The game against Colorado Rapids this weekend will be the last tuneup game for the club prior to the start of the new season on April 2.
"Definitely we have a huge game this weekend. Everyone is antsy, everyone wants to play; it's been a long preseason and I think we are ready," said Cassar.
Said Garlick: "We finished with the first part of preseason the physical part, now it's the tactical and game playing part. I think everyone feels good physically; we're in good shape. Everybody's got a good competitive desire, a will to win, that's going to be vital for us this year."
Cassar and Garlick both have a lot to offer the team, but in different capacities.
"I like to think that I am a good organizer/communicator, I think I am a good reader of the game and I think I am able to cut things out and really control things in front of me without having to make a lot of saves," said Garlick. "I think that is an important part of goalkeeping and it's not really understood all the time -- it's just cutting things off and not allowing them."
Cassar said: "I think I bring a few things to the table. I bring leadership in a fun way -- you know, I like to joke around. I like to be able to laugh and the coaching staff makes an environment to where its enjoyable to come out here. It's not like, 'Oh, we have another practice.' It's, 'Let's get out there and have some fun, but get some stuff accomplished'."
The guys have mutual respect for each other on and off the pitch.
"But once you get off the field it's about a mutual respect and ultimately what it also tells the players, the younger players especially is that the team is bigger then any individual player," Garlick said. "Whether I play or not, it's not really that important in terms of our team, we need to make the team No. 1 starting from player No. 1 to player No. 22 and I think Jeff and I show that that is an important part of being a team."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.