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Davidson article on Onstad


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Didn't see this posted from Friday...

Two months shy of 40th birthday, Canadian 'keeper enjoys record MLS season

BY NEIL DAVIDSON

CP

933 words

9 November 2007

13:46

The Canadian Press

English

© 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad quietly made MLS history this season, setting a league record with a goals-against average of 0.82.

The Houston Dynamo veteran also led the MLS in save percentage (78.0), goals conceded (22) and consecutive shutout minutes (547). His 11 shutouts in 27 games were second only to Chivas USA 'keeper Brad Guzan's 13.

Just two months short of his 40th birthday, Onstad may be a little greyer around the temples. But the Vancouver native's reflexes and soccer smarts remain as sharp as ever.

``Pat has just continued to show, game in and game out, that he is a fantastic goalkeeper,'' said Dynamo defender and captain Wade Barrett. ``He's a good leader on the team, he organizes the back line quite well. But first and foremost is he makes big saves when he's called to. And he's done that for the entire time that I've known him.''

On Saturday, Onstad can help the Dynamo reach the MLS Cup with a victory over the visiting Kansas City Wizards in the Western Conference final. The winner will meet the New England Revolution on Nov. 18 at Washington's RFK Stadium.

The six-foot-four, 215-pound Onstad is not a flashy goalkeeper. But he is a model of consistency.

``He is very nuts and bolts and does all the things he is supposed to do very well,'' said Dynamo goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack, a fellow Canadian. ``Very rarely will you see a mishap from Pat, such as a ball through the legs or one he should have had. Very rare.

``And he is capable of the spectacular but, because of his good positioning and reading the game, he's always where he should be to make the save and makes it look quite easy.

``To coaches and people that know the position or are in the game, that's the sign of a quality goalkeeper. And he definitely fits in that mould.''

Adds Barrett: ``Pat has tremendous respect among the players and really commands that goalkeeper box.''

For a two-time MLS goalkeeper of the year (2003 and 2005, both with the San Jose Earthquakes), Onstad is a modest sort. He deflects praise not only to his back four _ Barrett, Eddie Robinson, Ryan Cochrane and Craig Waibel _ but to the entire Dynamo.

``We're putting a lot of teams under pressure for long spells ... they never really get an opportunity to get rolling,'' he said. ``You don't want to just say it's the back four and the goalkeeper. I think a lot of it has to do the way we play, as an attacking team, as well.''

The system works. Onstad needed to make just 85 saves in 27 regular season games, which ranked ninth in the league. Houston (15-8-7) yielded a league-best 23 goals in 30 games this season.

Onstad rates this campaign ``either my best or second best I've had in this league. And maybe in my career. I was very pleased with the way things worked out.''

Still, the goalie of the year award went to Guzan, with Onstad a finalist.

``I was very impressed with the year he had,'' Onstad said of Guzan, whose 13 shutouts were second only to Tony Meola's 16 in 2000.

``They both had fantastic seasons,'' Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said diplomatically.

A latecomer to MLS, Onstad's numbers are nevertheless impressive over his five seasons. He has 43 shutouts in 143 regular season games and a goals-against average of just 1.07. Perhaps most impressive is his record of 63-33-47.

Onstad has picked the ball out of his net just 153 times over those five seasons. Compare that to the 49 that Toronto FC yielded in its first campaign.

Onstad looks after himself and Toshack believes he has more to give.

``I think he has at least two good years left in him. I think it will be up to him.''

Onstad, who has two more years left on his current deal although neither is guaranteed, isn't ready to call it quits _ either for Houston or Canada.

Onstad got a new lease in life on the national team front, when he was called up to the Gold Cup after Greg Sutton suffered a concussion. He ended up playing four games as a resurgent Canada made it to the semifinals before losing 2-1 to the U.S.

Onstad said he enjoyed every moment of the trip.

``For some reason I never felt under pressure. I just really had a good time.''

He went on to play for Canada in Iceland in August and would welcome another call-up, although he says Canadian coach Dale Mitchell has opted not to pick he or teammate Dwayne De Rosario for the Nov. 20 friendly in South Africa because of the MLS playoffs.

Onstad had just turned 20 when he made his Canadian senior debut in February 1988 in a 0-0 tie in Bermuda.

Today Onstad has 51 caps for his country, just one behind Paul Dolan and five behind Craig Forrest _ two goalies whose eras coincided with Onstad's (Dolan played for the national team from 1984 to '97 and Forrest 1988 to 2001).

The fact Onstad has all but caught up to them in terms of appearances speaks volumes to his talent, proving he belongs among Canada's all-time elite goalkeepers.

And he's not done yet.

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"And he's not done yet."

Good lord, seeing his performance in the 07 Gold Cup, reminded me of his Fury days

in the old CSL. He brings consistent solid goalkeeping, despite not specacular,

he always answered the call. Good to know he's not done yet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There was also a Mallett article on Onstad last week before the final.

GlobeSportsSoccer,GlobeSports

Onstad shows no signs of slowing down

Peter Mallett

830 words

16 November 2007

The Globe and Mail (Breaking News)

English

2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Like sour grapes which grow sweeter with age, great soccer goalkeepers also seem to become more refined with the passing of each season between the posts.

After the final whistle of this Sunday's MLS Cup match against the New England Revolution, Canadian international and Houston Dynamo veteran backstop Pat Onstad hopes to hear the Champagne corks popping and be at RFK Stadium's centre circle toasting a fitting conclusion to another great season.

"It seems that the older he gets the better he gets," explains Onstad's Canadian national squad teammate and Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. "He's a big asset to our team in terms of his leadership role, in terms of experience and being vocal and getting the back line tight and being the [vigilant] eye for the team in the net."

The Vancouver native with the steady hands finished the regular season with 11 shutouts and Major League Soccer's best goals against average record of 0.82.

He insists there is no bitter after-taste in his mouth about not reclaiming the league's honour for top goalkeeper, an award he has won on two previous occasions.

"The biggest sour point for me would be if we were knocked out of the playoffs," said Onstad. "I remember the feeling when I was with San Jose in 2005 when I won the award but we were eliminated in the first round, I would trade that win for a championship in a heartbeat."

This year's top keeper award went to Chivas USA's Brad Guzan who finished the season with two more shutouts than Onstad but actually had a weaker GAA at 0.93.

"He should have gotten the award [this year], he's been phenomenal," said De Rosario.

For now Onstad says his attention is firmly focused on a rematch of last year's championship game against the Eastern Conference champion Revolution as he eyes his second MLS crown with the Dynamo and third of his career.

Last year's MLS Cup game in Frisco, Texas, was a memorable one for Onstad who was mobbed by teammates after making the game-winning save, turning back Jay Heap's spot kick to help the Dynamo defeat the Revolution 4-3 on penalty kicks and breaking a 1-1 deadlock.

The Dynamo's chances of repeating as champions looked bleak after they finished second in the Western Conference to Chivas USA and then fell behind 2-0 to FC Dallas in their first round aggregate series.

But Houston rallied to win the series 4-2 and then dispatched the Kansas City Wizards 2-0 in last weekend's single-game conference final before a full-house at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

Onstad began his career with the Vancouver 86ers in 1987 and also played with the Winnipeg Fury and Toronto Blizzard of the Canadian Soccer League, along with six seasons in the United Soccer Leagues with the Toronto Rockets, Toronto Lynx, Montreal Impact and Rochester Raging Rhinos.

In 2000 he was a member of Scottish Premiership club Dundee United, but remained a backup all season and did not see action in a single game.

Not playing a game that season was frustrating, but also something that made him more determined to improve his game.

At 39 years old, and with a few grey hairs on the side of his head, the questions now mount over when he will retire.

For now he insists he will play at least one more season and hasn't even started to think about the possibility of returning to the classroom as a public school teacher or starting a career in coaching.

When Onstad turns 40 in January, he will join an impressive list other great goalkeepers like English legends Peter Shilton and David Seaman or Italy's Dino Zoff who all played well into their fifth decade.

He and others have rightfully argued that great goalkeepers — like some of baseball's top pitchers — continue to get better over time.

When he was younger when another team scored he would often take his frustrations out on the goalposts by kicking them with his cleats or launching verbal tirades against one of his teammates - he now puts that energy into his game.

"It's one of those positions where experience is very important, I probably read the game better today than I ever have before," he said.

"I may not have the athletic ability I had 10 years ago but your game changes and adapts to that. I would be lying though if I said I didn't get nervous before games, but I know how to control that nervous energy."

He isn't ready to call and end to his international career either, and with 51 appearances for Canada he hopes to be part of the roster when 2010 World Cup qualifying begins later next year.

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