COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Lying down face-first in the lush grass at the Rio Tinto Stadium two weeks ago, Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco thought there was a serious chance he’d just blown the opportunity he’d spent the majority of his adult life working so hard for.
But eight days after committing two horrific errors in a 5-1 loss at archrival Real Salt Lake, the 30-year-old first-year MLS player was back between the posts for just his fourth career MLS start, and he didn’t disappoint, making a string of fine saves in helping the Rapids to just their second result in 10 matches with a 1-1 draw against San Jose on Saturday night.
For Nasco, who starred for the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL before winning a roster spot with the Rapids during the preseason, the faith of the Colorado coaching staff to give him another chance was one that gave him confidence after making two mistakes that he said he’d never committed in a match before.
“I was worried about it, for sure,” Nasco told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I think [head coach] Pablo [Mastroeni] had some confidence in me as well even though that was a rough game for me, but hopefully that last game kind of turned it around a bit.”
Second chances are traditionally a testament to the human nature of committing mistakes. Unless, of course, you are a goalkeeper in professional soccer, a position that traditionally receives amongst the harshest judgments in sports. In the Rapids’ 2013 regular season opener, for example, four-year backup Steward Ceus misjudged a long pass, resulting in a horrific error and the game-winning goal for FC Dallas. Ceus didn’t see the light of day the rest of that season before quietly having his option declined at year’s end.
Nasco acknowledges he could have easily suffered a similarly difficult fate, but now, he’s determined to prove his errors were distant outliers rather than accurately summing up his goalkeeping profile. But he also knows he’s now on an even shorter leash and can ill afford to commit another goal-producing error.
“It was a rough one for me,” Nasco said of his Salt Lake errors on Sept. 19. “For me, I feel that [dealing with crosses] is one of the best parts of my game. For me to drop two balls like that is very uncharacteristic of me and it really hit me hard. After that one, I was a little bummed out. But at the same time, everybody has bad days, and that’s how I had to take it.”
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There’s no guarantee Nasco will start this Sunday when the spoiler-seeking Rapids host the Seattle Sounders at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (3 pm ET; UniMas). There’s no guarantee he’ll play again in the final four games of the season, assuming the near-eliminated Rapids don’t make the postseason.
But if he’s called upon, the former Georgia police officer says he’s guaranteed to be ready, with a new lease on his goalkeeping life fresh in his mind – a second chance likely gifted with the help of goalkeeping coach Chris Sharpe.
“I think [Rapids goalkeeping coach Chris Sharpe] had a chat with Pablo, or at least I hope he did,” Nasco said of his errors. “He knows that’s why he brought me in, because he knows [dealing with crosses] is a good part of my game, and he knows that’s not how I am.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.