VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps are fast running out of superlatives to describe the play of goalkeeper David Ousted this season.
The Dane has been in top form this year, building upon his league-leading 13 clean sheets in 2014. With another seven shutouts to his name this season, Ousted has been a crucial figure for the Whitecaps on their way to leading the Western Conference standings and picking up three straight wins on the road in June after Saturday's 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution.
"He's playing really well," Whitecaps left back Jordan Harvey told reporters at training. "For me, the top goalkeeper in MLS. He's got us wins. I think throughout the season, if you look back at the games, he's probably got us nine points here and there. Really huge. The All-Star, MVP of our team so far this season."
While the stats may measure game-winning goals and game-winning assists, they fail to capture the key contributions of goalkeepers to not only keeping their teams in matches, but also setting them up for the win. Ousted has been massive for Vancouver in that regards this season, producing many game-defining moments.
"He's been excellent," Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said of Ousted's play. "His standard's been very high. He was excellent for us last year, and he's come in this year and he wants to take it to the next level, and he certainly is doing that.
"He comes up with big saves at the right times, and you need your goalkeeper to do that. If your goalkeeper can win you a number of points throughout the season, then you're not going to be too far away. We'll keep pushing him because we know he can develop even further."
Ousted has faced 70 shots this season, producing 53 saves. Only six goalkeepers in MLS have faced more, so as important as the Dane's big saves have been, is it perhaps masking the fact that the Whitecaps defense needs to be better?
"As a defender, you don't want your goalie to make big, big saves," Vancouver rookie center back Tim Parker said. "You want him to kind of have an easy day. So when he does make a big save, you're waking up and you're saying that Dave shouldn't have to be dealing with something like that. We should be dealing with it ourselves."
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Although having Ousted in top form behind them has been a reassuring presence for the Whitecaps backline at times this season, it's not something that they're taking for granted and planning for. But there’s no doubt it has provided a vital spark for the team to turn matches around.
"I don't think we're going into games thinking Dave's going to bail us out," Harvey added. "Sometimes it ends up like that because we're away from home and good teams are going to get chances.
"Honestly, you know mistakes are going to happen, and when he does make those saves, it's a big boost for the team, a big morale boost. I mean, we gave up two penalties [against New York] and he saved them both. After that, it was one of those things, a wake-up call. You kind of go into the rest of the game feeling confident that they aren't going to score, and you can play openly."