FULLERTON, Calif. — Typically, MLS teams use US Open Cup matches to give minutes to players who may not have been a large part of the regular-season campaign.
Brian Perk fits that description. The LA Galaxy’s third-string 'keeper started Tuesday’s Open Cup match against the LA Blues, and the only other action he’s seen in 2011 has been three Reserve League matches.
However, Perk wasn’t playing simply to log minutes. Next Monday, the spotlight is his.
Barring injury, Perk will start for the Galaxy against the Seattle Sounders on July 4, and the USOC matchup presented him with a great opportunity for him before his expected MLS debut.
“This is great for me,” he said Tuesday. “Getting into a full game, a full 90 that actually means something. I’ve played three reserve games which helped me to do this and I have all the confidence to step in on Monday and do the job.”
Had circumstances gone differently on the weekend, Perk probably would not have played in the Galaxy’s 2-1 victory over the Blues. But fate placed him on the field at Titan Stadium. Donovan Ricketts fractured his wrist in last Saturday’s match against San Jose, and backup ‘keeper Josh Saunders was sent off afterward with a straight red card.
With the starting ‘keeper injured and the backup suspended, the doors have opened for Perk.
“He doesn’t have to have an audition for Monday,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He got the job without auditioning. It was good for him to get a game before Seattle. It made sense to give him a game. Realistically, [the USOC game] would have been Josh’s game.”
At a glance, the Blues may not have seemed like much competition. But Perk was tested by former MLS players such as Israel Sesay and Chukwudi Chijindu, and made several saves throughout the match as the Blues seemed determined to upset the Galaxy.
Perk surrendered a goal midway through the second half, but that was much of a defensive breakdown as anything.
“Brian did very well,” Arena said. “I thought he looked comfortable.”
Feeling at ease has been one positive side effect from his time with the reserves. Perk may not have felt as comfortable otherwise without them.
“[My nerves] were fine,” Perk said after the USOC win. “I’ve played three reserve games recently. My first one I was pretty jittery but by the third one I feel good and tonight, I felt fine. I expect more of the same on Monday.”
If there were any nervous moments, perhaps they came when he watched the Galaxy take on San Jose. Having replaced Ricketts midway through the first half, Saunders was sent off after elbowing Steven Lenhart late in the first half.
And while he knew right away what that meant, in some ways it still feels a bit far off.
“Instantly I realized, as soon as the red comes — ‘My God, he’s suspended, I’m going to have to step in,’” he said. “It doesn’t really sink in; it really hasn’t until I step on the field. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not.”
“It’s my first game and I’m excited,” he added. “This is what we do as professional athletes. That’s the stage we want to step on.”