MILFORD, Ohio — As if FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season in MLS didn’t bring enough drama, the early stages of the campaign has created a legitimate goalkeeper competition.
Polish international Przemyslaw Tyton started the season-opening 4-1 loss at Seattle, but has since been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Enter Spencer Richey, who has hardly skipped a beat, stepping in for Tyton as FCC raced out to a 2W-1L-1D record.
Richey heads into Saturday’s match vs. Philadelphia (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info) with eight saves and a two-game shutout streak, with his only goal allowed occurring in the first five minutes of his season debut at Atlanta. As Tyton works his way back to full health, it has many in the Queen City wondering what becomes of the two 'keepers, both of whom so far have proven themselves worthy of first-team designation.
On Wednesday, Tyton practiced fully for the first time since the injury. In previous sessions, he had been slowly building up his reps, starting with individual workouts but then heading to the sidelines for short-sided play. For goalkeepers, short-sided play brings the shots early, close, and often. Tyton was happy about that: “It’s a very important part of the training, because you expect shots from every side. You have to react faster, and its high intensity.”
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When asked about Richey’s play in his absence, Tyton was full of praise.
“I think he’s been very doing well," he said. "The whole team has. I’m proud of the guys; they work hard in training for this, especially Spencer. I hope I will come back soon to help them.”
Tyton, one of the big acquisitions for FC Cincy in the offseason who has experience playing in the top leagues of the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, has been in this situation before in his career.
“It’s part of football and professional sports," Tyton said. "It’s tough, it's hard. But I have to go through it to make myself stronger mentally and physically. I’m sure that I will come back stronger.”
On the other side of the coin, Richey, coming off just his fourth career MLS appearance, is determined to take the current moment day by day.
“I haven’t been told anything for sure this weekend [Week 5]," he said. "It’s a week-to-week, performance-based business, and that’s the reality. The team has been playing well, and as have I, so hopefully I can continue playing.”
Richey is happy with how he’s stepped in: “I think most guys are used to a situation like this. I’m no stranger to it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been preparing to play in the MLS at a high level. It’s been a fun few weeks for me, but at the same time, I expect it out of myself.”
There is such a thing as a good problem to have. Head coach Alan Koch likes the competition seen not just from the goalkeepers, but the team as a whole.
“It cannot be, ‘Oh, I don’t play this week and the other guy will play and he’s not very good, so I’ll get my job back.’ We’ve created an environment where you come to work, you have to push each other to get your job,” Koch explained.
“You have to have competition to be remotely successful in this league. You have to have people pushing each other every day. We’ve seen a good reaction, and hopefully it continues.”