FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas enter Saturday with the most points in Major League Soccer, in large part due to goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who many expected to spend another season playing second fiddle.
Although Seitz was a starter for the Philadelphia Union in 2010, he had been the backup goalkeeper since joining FC Dallas in 2011. Last season, he was behind Peruvian international and MLS All-Star Raúl Fernández, making eight of a possible 34 starts. However, when Fernández wasn’t available during the preseason because of a lingering hip injury, the University of Maryland product took full advantage.
“[Chris] brings a lot of professionalism and guidance,” head coach Oscar Pareja told reporters on Friday. “I know he has gotten through challenges and had to jump over big hurdles and it is paying off.”
- FREE STREAM: FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 8:30 pm ET
Apart from a season with expansion Philadelphia, the 27-year-old has never appeared in more than eight matches in a campaign. Now eight seasons into his MLS career, it’s clear that situation wasn’t ideal, but it did force Seitz to adapt quickly.
“It was kind of trial by fire,” he told reporters on Friday, “and I definitely left there a little battered, but it taught me a lot.”
Then, after joining FC Dallas before the 2011 season, a personal decision added another obstacle in his quest to become the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. Seitz elected to forgo the end of the 2012 season in order to donate bone marrow to an unknown patient.
“It was something I really wanted to do for personal reasons as well as for to help someone out,” he said.
The complicated procedure involved drilling 64 holes in Seitz’s pelvic bone to extract marrow, but the experience gave him motivation and perspective.
“It put soccer in a different aspect for me,” Seitz said. “When I was out of the game, it’s something I really missed. You don’t get a lot of opportunities, so you have to embrace it and take it.”
Seitz has started all six FC Dallas games this season, posting a 4-1-1 record. His saves against Houston’s Boniek García and Seattle's Clint Dempsey the last two weeks were voted MLS’ best.
The result? Seitz is in the starting lineup while an All-Star languishes on the bench.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Pareja said. “We are trying to establish healthy competition and make everybody feel involved and an important part of the team. Chris is a reflection of that and is playing well, and Raúl is working incredibly hard.”
Seitz also has the support of his backline, using the experience he’s gained to keep FC Dallas from exposing any unnecessary chinks in their defensive armor.
“He’s awesome at giving little instructions to help organize the back four, and we can organize the midfield and they can organize the forward,” said Stephen Keel. “He’s the one that starts all that.”
Seitz is expected to make his seventh consecutive start on Saturday when FC Dallas host Toronto (8:30 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week), but Pareja’s message is clear.
“We don’t have just 11 starters,” he said. “We want players who know that this jersey means a lot and dressing on Saturday means the whole world.”