This article appeared in the Sept. 6 gameday magazine. Click here to view the complete magazine.
The life of a professional goalkeeper has ebbs and flows. If you are not the starter, you may sit and watch from the sideline and not play in a single game for months at a time. The good ones find a way to stay sharp and push the incumbent every day, with hope of receiving an opportunity. For goalkeeper Tyler Deric, the Dynamo’s return to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2012 provided that opportunity.
The Dynamo have been a goalkeeper factory dating back to their days as the San Jose Earthquakes. Beginning in 2002, Joe Cannon and Pat Onstad won four consecutive MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards, alternating each year. Onstad won both with the Quakes, in 2003 and 2005, and Cannon won his first in San Jose in 2002 before capturing his second with the Colorado Rapids in 2004.
Tally Hall arrived in Houston in 2009 and sat behind Onstad for two years before earning the starting job at the start of last season. The cycle continued with Deric, who signed with the Dynamo in February 2009 to become the first Dynamo Academy player to earn a contract with the senior team and second in league history.
Sitting behind Onstad and Hall, first-team opportunities have been sparse for Deric. He started two MLS matches and two international friendlies in his first three seasons, but has added 17 reserve league starts in the past 18 months. On August 22, he received his first start in international competition, getting the nod in Houston’s opening game in the CONCACAF Champions League against C.D. FAS in San Salvador, El Salvador. The Dynamo earned a 3-1 win, their first win in Central America.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said Deric. “I knew coming into it that the atmosphere would be different and that the games do mean a lot, so I wasn’t nervous. I was happy with the way the team played and I was happy with my performance.”
The six-foot-three-inch goalkeeper produced an encore eight days later, helping Houston to a vital 1-1 road draw in Tegucigalpa with Olimpia of Honduras. The Dynamo are tied for first place in Group 3 and have two home games remaining in group play; Sept. 20 against FAS, and Oct. 23 against group co-leader Olimpia.
“I think Tyler takes his position on this team very seriously,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “He understands there are going to be opportunities for him, and when they are given to him I think he is more than ready and more than enthusiastic about the chance.”
Deric has taken advantage of prospects within soccer, beginning with a phone call he received from Dynamo director of youth development James Clarkson in 2007. The Dynamo had just started its academy and were recruiting its first class of players. Clarkson did not have to fret over which Houston goalkeeper to target.
“I wanted Deric to join the club because I thought he would play for the first team,” recalls Clarkson. “I was the director for South Texas Youth Soccer, so I’d seen him playing a lot of ODP and club games, and he was the best goalkeeper in the city. I thought with the physical attributes he had, and his work ethic, and his commitment to goalkeeping, he was a perfect fit for the Dynamo.”
Deric, who celebrated his 24th birthday in Tegucigalpa with the 1-1 road draw against Olimpia, never considered a career as a professional goalkeeper growing up. He was passed over for state ODP teams and flew beneath the radar, which, in his eyes, was a blessing.
“I never thought I would be a professional goalkeeper at that time because I never made South Texas ODP, so I never thought I was good enough to be a goalkeeper,” said Deric. “I just went out and played because I loved playing. Looking back on it now, I realize it benefitted me that I didn’t make those teams. It made me mad and pushed me to train more, train harder, work out and play soccer after school.”
Deric played with the Dynamo Academy as well as Texans Soccer Club growing up and has not forgotten his mom’s tremendous effort to pay for his development.
“For my mother, it was always difficult,” Deric recalls. “She worked her butt off for me to play soccer, which I appreciate more than anything right now. Without her working hard, I would not be here right now. It was always a struggle to buy shoes and goalkeeping gloves because I went through them so quickly. I would get a pair of goalie gloves for Christmas or my birthday.”
Despite earning all-region honors for four years at Spring’s Klein High School, and winning the 2005 UIL 5A championship, Deric received just two scholarship offers from college programs: Southern Methodist University and the University of North Carolina. Deric chose the Tar Heels over the in-state Mustangs partially because of family in North Carolina, but also due to his time with UNC goalkeepers coach Jeff Negalha.
“Jeff Negalha was the one who spotted me in Houston, playing in tournaments,” Deric said. “He told me to come out to one of the summer camps and show him what I got. I went to a camp and worked my butt off, but I learned a lot about being a goalkeeper, including the little things. I was really raw when I went to the camp, and Jeff taught me a lot. I came here and Tim Hanley polished off everything I learned.”
Deric won the starting position as a freshman at North Carolina and cites the vote of confidence as a turning point in his own self-belief to become a professional goalkeeper.
“I pay a lot of attention to college soccer and you don’t see a lot of freshman goalkeepers play,” he said.
After signing with the Dynamo in 2009, Deric was the third string ‘keeper, behind Onstad and Hall. In most training sessions, only two goalkeepers are needed during small-sided games. Deric was forced to watch the older pros work.
“I stood behind Onstad’s goal a lot my first year and I would watch what he did,” said Deric. “We are different goalkeepers. He was a bigger guy than me, so I try to use my speed a bit more and he put himself in very good spots.”
Deric, like Hall, is quick to praise Onstad, who kept two talented goalkeepers on the bench while playing into his forties.
“I think the whole reason Tally and I have been successful early in our careers is because of Pat Onstad,” Deric declared. “He was an extremely good goalkeeper and he was great off the field. He was a great teacher and that’s why he is now coaching with D.C. United.”
Deric also credits his current goalkeepers coach Tim Hanley for polishing his skills and calls him the the best goalkeepers coach in MLS. The two have formed a strong bond since Deric joined the club in 2009.
“I have a guy that has good size, is a good athlete which is vital, and has good hands,” said Hanley of Deric. “He also has a bit of courage, which is really important, and then you mold the technical stuff after that.
“The sky is the limit for Tyler,” Hanley added. “He has spent the time, he has done the work, and now he is ready. If he continues to perform well in the games that he gets, then he has got a real bright future.”