VANCOUVER, B.C. — After over a month without a competitive match, Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly made a winning return to the Vancouver lineup in a 4-2 victory against the Chicago Fire on Sunday evening.
It was a fitting reward for a player who maintained his professionalism, dignity and work ethic after being unceremoniously dropped following the team’s coaching change back in late May.
“It’s part of the job,” Nolly told MLSsoccer.com. “They’ve made it clear they don’t want anybody’s [position] to be cut and dry. I want to be part of this organization — I like playing for this team. If that means being a No. 2, fighting to get into that starting spot, I’ll do it. I think it paid off this week and Tommy [Soehn] gave me a game.”
Nolly’s biggest contribution to his side’s success on Sunday was a save in the 59th minute on Fire forward Orr Barouch. The score was 3-1 at that point and the save meant the ‘Caps held on to a two-goal buffer at a crucial stage.
“I was surprised [the ball] actually got to [Barouch],” Nolly said. “He took it well, took a touch and I tried to get as close as possible to him to close down the space. Once I saw him swinging for it I knew I needed to get my hands out there and just try and get as big as possible.”
Nolly started the year as former coach Teitur Thordarson’s No. 1 goalkeeper, but his only competitive start under current Whitecaps coach Soehn was the June 29 match against Toronto FC, when Vancouver played what was essentially a second-string squad ahead of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final.
“We just wanted to make sure we keep competing and offering up any solution to solve what we were going through,” Soehn commented on the goalkeeping change after Sunday’s match. “It’s no disrespect to Joe [Cannon] — even against LA [last month], he made some fantastic saves for us. Those two are the utmost pros and keep battling hard against each other day in and day out, and it was time to give Jay a shot.”
Cannon, who has held the No. 1 role throughout Soehn’s tenure, was back in training on Monday and prepared to battle for the starting job.
“It’s definitely a challenge, and one that is going to epitomize the rest of my career,” Cannon said after training on Monday. “Is it a challenge I want to take on, or is it just something I’m going to roll over and accept? Jay was great with me when I was playing, and I’m definitely going to return the favor. But, in practice, I’m going to try and make it as tough as it can be.”