By Rick Kupchuk - Surrey North Delta Leader
Two months ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps had to persuade Tyler Baldock to rejoin their team.
Two weeks ago, the soccer goalie from Surrey made their decision look brilliant.
Baldock, who hadn’t played a minute in league or playoff action while with the Whitecaps in 2007 and the latter part of the 2008 season, was forced into goal during a playoff game Oct. 3 in Montreal. The 24-year-old gave up a goal just six minutes after taking to the field, but was unbeatable the rest of the two-game series.
Vancouver came from behind to win the two-game USL (United Soccer Leagues) semifinal series. And with Baldock back on the bench last Sunday, clinched the First Division championship with a 1-0 win over the Puerto Rico Islanders.
“It sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it?” laughed the 24-year-old Wednesday. “I was on the roster last year, but only played in friendlies. The playoffs were the first minutes I played in the league.”
Baldock wasn’t sure he wanted to rejoin the Whitecaps in August. Coming off an injury, he wasn’t re-signed by the team in the offseason, so instead joined the Abbotsford Mariners of the Premier Development League (PDL). That, along with his duties as a goaltending coach at Trinity Western University (TWU) and as a part-time personal trainer, kept him busy enough he considered turning down the offer to return to the USL.
“I was in Oregon with TWU, and (Whitecaps) called and said they might be looking for a goalkeeper. I wasn’t sure I was interested, I was kind of busy. But when they said the number two spot was up for grabs, I went for it.”
The number two spot for a goaltender usually means a near-permanent seat on the bench. Only when the starter is unable to play does the backup get the nod from the coach.
Which is what happened in Montreal, when Jay Nolly was red-carded in the 50th minute, banished from the contest and earning a one-game suspension.
“I was on the bench, and we were all surprised he got the red card,” Baldock recalled. “It took me a couple of seconds to realize I was going in for the rest of the game. And I was nervous, I had never played in front of a crowd that was that big.
“But (Jeff Clarke) Clarkie and (Steve) Kindel really helped me out on the back line, they kept talking to me to settle me down. And they kept talking to me the day after, so I wasn’t nervous at all going into the second game.”
Despite his playoff success, Baldock isn’t sure he will be back with the team for next season
“I’ll stay fit in the offseason, and see what happens.”