Tyler Deric of the Houston Dynamo
USA Today Sports

Houston Dynamo looking for "fair fight" between goalkeepers Tyler Deric, Joe Willis for starting spot

HOUSTON – When the Houston Dynamo traded Tally Hall to Orlando City last fall, the prevailing thought was that Tyler Deric would slide right into his starting spot between the pipes.

New head coach Owen Coyle has pumped the brakes on that line of thinking.

Instead of naming the 26-year-old Deric the starter, Coyle has made it clear that the goalkeeper position is up for grabs.

"Fair fight" in goal
Houston Dynamo goalkeepers, career MLS stats
  Mins W-L-T Sv% GAA
Tyler Deric 1,180 5-6-2 .750 1.30
Joe Willis 2,052 6-13-4 .623 1.89

“We can’t affect what happened last year; last year’s got no effect on what we do,” Coyle told MLSsoccer.com. “You ask any of my squad, even the goalkeepers: Every position, we like to think, at our club is up for grabs. What we want to do moving forward is work on what we can affect going forward. I’ve told the group that everyone has a fresh page, everyone starts on a clean slate.”

With Joe Willis, also 26, and Michael Lisch, 24, in camp, Deric will have to battle to the keep the job he inherited late last season after a long wait to take the spot.

It took five seasons after becoming the club’s first Homegrown Player signing in 2009 for Deric to get an extended run while understudying to MLS All-Stars Hall (2011-14) and Pat Onstad (2009-10) . The pair led the club to four MLS Cup finals, including two wins for Onstad, as well as two additional conference title games. When Hall went down with an ACL injury last season, Deric impressed while seeing the team through the final nine games of the season.

But that was last year, and Coyle has wiped the slate clean.

“The competition between us, nothing has been said about who’s backing up or who’s starting, so it’s up in the air, and it’s down to the individual player to prove his best on the field,” Deric told MLSsoccer.com. “I don’t want to get complacent and get stale.”

His closest competition will likely come from Willis. The former D.C. United ‘keeper enjoyed solid stints as a starter – featuring in 22 games over three seasons before posting an unbeaten record and 0.72 GAA in 18 starts on loan to USL PRO Richmond in 2014 – before coming to Houston in a trade this offseason. After battling with Bill Hamid, he’s no stranger to hustling for playing time. Willis knows better than most that time must be earned, something he will not shy away from just because he’s in a new zip code.

“At this point, every player in this league’s good, and every goalkeeper in this league’s good, and you have to earn your spot,” Willis said. “[Competition] gives every player on the team hope and every player motivation to work hard, and they know if they play their game and work hard, the opportunity’s there.”

Add in Lisch, who posted a 1.74 GAA in 17 starts with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL PRO last season, and the Dynamo have good options in goal. With new arrival Paul Rogers settling into the goalkeeper coach position, the process is ready to play out on the field.

“It’s got to be a fair fight,” Coyle said. “Tyler came in last season and Tyler was outstanding, no doubt about that. Michael Lisch went out on loan and did very well and did very well in training, and Joe Willis has come in. I’ve got to say that Tyler was at times outstanding last year, and if he continues in that form, then we’ve got outstanding goalkeepers.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.