Winnipeg Fury Posted May 12, 2005 Share Posted May 12, 2005 Red-hot goalkeeper relishes the top job Franks's long-term goal is firefighting, but for the now he's keeping his cool in net By GRANT KERR Wednesday, May 11, 2005 Page S8 BURNABY, B.C. -- Mike Franks hasn't given up a goal in three full games, which still doesn't qualify the towering goalkeeper for the unbeaten Vancouver Whitecaps from exemption of often biting criticism by coach Bob Lilly. During practice this week, Franks was openly reprimanded by Lilly for where Franks moved the ball during an informal scrimmage at the end of the two-hour session. Lilly then called all players together, further explained his viewpoint and clearly got his point across before ending the workout. Franks and the Whitecaps are learning to cope with the sudden outbursts by Lilly, a no-nonsense type who has changed the team's style of play, starting with from where the ball is moved from the back end. The Whitecaps have scored only one goal -- on a penalty against Rochester -- but are unbeaten in the United Soccer League First Division with a win and two ties as Lilly reshapes the on-field product. Advertisements "Things have been good for me because we're pretty organized defensively," the 6-foot-5 Franks said. "I haven't had too much to do, not near as much as you'd expect." The Edmonton-born Franks, 28, won the starting position in training camp ahead of German keeper Josh Wicks and Serbian Srdjan Djekanovic. Franks is more experienced than the other 'keepers after playing in The Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven and later for the Scottish side Hibernian. He got used to a faster pace of game overseas and can make adjustments quickly, even to the insights of Lilly. "We defend with 11 guys and Mike has been a big part of that," Lilly said. "He's been solid. He knows if he can deal with crosses and make the one or two big saves, we can get a clean sheet every time he steps out there. "He has to provide leadership back there because of the nature of the position. Mike communicates well and understands the game through his experience. He's also being pushed by two young, hungry players." Franks moved to the West Coast at an early age and was raised in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. He soon learned that if he wanted to play soccer past the youth phase, he'd have to be a central defender or 'keeper. "When I was younger, I looked up to Peter Shilton and Gordon Banks from England as my goalkeeping idols," Franks said. "Back then, I wasn't the quickest guy or the fastest, but I was tall and pretty good with my hands, so this position was right for me. "The coach we have now keeps you on your toes and makes sure that you're never sleeping. It's not unusual to get yelled at, not unusual at all." Franks works closely with goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack, a specialist from Prescott, Ont., who worked on the same staff with Lilly for two years in Montreal with the Impact. It was the stocky Toshack who provided Franks with the nickname Big Bird because of his height and curly hair. "Mike has a lot of experience in goal that we want to bring out so it can help the team this year," Toshack said. "He's really bought into what we're doing defensively." Toshack has been training Franks since February, working extensively off the field breaking down video and reviewing techniques and situations. "At 28, Mike has small areas for improvement, more tactically than anything else," Toshack said. "My job is to keep all the 'keepers sharp, giving them goals to achieve each week in practice." Toshack, who spent 10 years at St. Lawrence University in New York as a coach, left Massachusetts Premier Soccer in Boston to become the goalkeeping guru of the Whitecaps organization. "With the way that we play here, Mike should be able to make the saves that we need from him," Toshack added. "He can handle high balls and crosses into the box. Our guys have a lot of confidence in him." Toshack continually works with Franks to improve his throws and goals kicks, with Franks hoping to stay injury-free for a change this season. He played only 10 games last campaign because of a hand injury. Franks turned professional with Vancouver in 1997 and returned to the organization in 2002, only to suffer a broken arm. His long-term goal off the field is to become a firefighter. But for now, he's satisfied with putting out the few hot opportunities that develop near the Whitecaps goal area. Vancouver plays next on Sunday against the Charleston Battery, 1-1-2, at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby. Record-setter Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Mike Franks has not been scored upon in three games, or 270 minutes, eclipsing the team record of 186 goalless minutes to open a season set by Paul Dolan at the beginning of the 1992 Canadian Soccer League schedule. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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