Tyler Deric loves to watch video of goalkeepers in action. On Saturday he will get the chance to add to his own personal highlight reel when the Dynamo host the Montreal Impact at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:30 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
The game kicks off a big month for Houston, who are looking to close the gap on teams above them as the campaign enters the stretch run. For Deric, the match is set to begin a series of first-team opportunities as he steps between the goalposts following the sad news that regular starter Tally Hall suffered a season-ending ACL injury in last Friday’s 3-1 road win over Sporting Kansas City.
The Spring native and Dynamo Academy product, who turned 26 on August 30, has made five MLS appearances — four starts — since 2009, as well as featuring in eleven U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League fixtures. He has recorded four shutouts and 14 goals against in those 16 matches. This year he came on for the final ten minutes of last week’s game and played the full 90 against SKC at BBVA Compass Stadium in June.
Hall’s misfortune is now giving his understudy the chance to show off his talents over a sustained period. “Tally’s a great teammate, also a good friend of mine and you never want to see your friend go through an injury like that. But I have confidence, Tally has a great work ethic, that’s how he got to where he is today, and he’s going to be back from this stronger than ever,” Deric told reporters at Houston Sports Park on Thursday.
“I’m extremely excited, I’m going to get a good group of games now … I’m going to embrace it,” he added. “I prepare each day as if I’m going to start that game so my preparation routine, nothing changes.”
Part of that preparation is scouring the internet and analyzing footage of some of the world’s top goalkeepers in action, to learn from the best. “He’s the guy who’s watching all the stuff, seeing everything, he’ll send me training videos from different places which is great,” said goalkeepers coach Tim Hanley. “[Hugo] Llloris, [Thibaut] Courtois, all the guys. [Manuel] Neuer. We watch all kinds of different stuff. He wants that, he’s really hungry for those types of things.”
As well as enthusiasm, Hanley said that Deric also brings athleticism, speed and a degree of flamboyance to the job. “He’s really passionate for the game, really enjoys it. We were joking the other day in Kansas City that if they were taking the kickoff he’d want to come for that ball, first touch,” he said.
Even though Deric will be heading for the field not the bench when the teams come out of the tunnel in East Downtown on Saturday, Hanley wants the goalkeeper’s preparation to be no different from the norm.
“You want to keep him kind of grounded and not changing too much. You start to change persona a little bit, who you are, when all of a sudden you have a different label, because it says ‘starter’ now. You just want him to keep doing the same things he’s done every day, the same training, the same kind of stuff that he’s done all year, and not change things too much,” he said. “The players are great because you don’t see them overreacting to anything. They know the guy is good. We don’t really change it up too much.”
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear is ruing the team’s bad luck with injuries. Hall is the third player to fall victim to a torn ACL in 2014 following striker Mark Sherrod and winger Tony Cascio. After a brief period post-World Cup when Kinnear had the luxury of picking from a near-full roster, Houston’s health problems have resurfaced and Kinnear will be forced to make four changes to the starting lineup from last week's win. As well as Hall, striker Will Bruin is out with a right foot sprain, defender Jermaine Taylor has a concussion and right back Kofi Sarkodie is suspended. On the plus side, Designated Player DaMarcus Beasley is expected to be fit.
Kinnear said he was saddened by the latest setback. “You don’t want to see anybody get hurt, no matter what team they’re on. When it’s a guy in your team who’s done well for you and you know it’s a long term injury it’s a bit of sadness. We’ve had that experience more than once this year and it’s affected us,” he said.
“Sometimes it rains and sometimes it pours; so it’s bucketing down for us right now in that department. Three guys you know that make the team better on and off the field so it’s a bit of a blow.”
The Dynamo enter the weekend five points adrift of the playoff places with nine matches to go. Last season Montreal reached the postseason for the first time but fell at the first hurdle, losing 3-0 to Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.
This year has been a struggle for the Quebec club, who currently own the worst record in MLS. The Dynamo beat them 1-0 at home in March but Montreal avenged that loss with a 3-0 win at Stade Saputo in June. And newly-signed Argentinian Designated Player Ignacio Piatti scored twice for Frank Klopas's men last week as the Impact overcame playoff hopefuls Columbus Crew, 2-0.
So the Dynamo are expecting a testing night — and expecting Deric to prosper. “He’s been battle-tested, he’s played in games in really, really difficult environments,” said Hanley. Kinnear put it succinctly: “He’s good, we know it.”
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.