OXNARD, California – Who do you turn to when you run out of goalkeepers? That was the question that Vancouver Whitecaps FC were faced with at training last week after a stomach virus ran through the team.
The bug hit the goalkeeping core especially hard. With Jay Nolly feeling ill and Brian Sylvestre sidelined with a hamstring injury, only Simon Thomas was available in net on Wednesday, though he too was feeling sick. The lack of healthy bodies left the squad one capable shotstopper short of fielding two teams for their scrimmage. Or so they thought...
Enter Graeme Poole, team physiotherapist by trade, fourth-string goalkeeper by destiny.
“We came down here with three ‘keepers and we only had one left,” said Poole. “I needed to go between the pipes. That was the only option really.”
The chance to play in goal may have appeared to be a twist of fate, but Poole explains that it was no accident.
“At breakfast that morning, I mentioned to Teitur that I had played in goal for UBC while I was there. Two games, in the spring season,” he revealed. “So I sort of let that slip intentionally.”
Before testing his mettle, though, he was put on trial with goalkeeping coach Mike Salmon.
“He put me through all the paces and got me good and warm,” said Poole “It was a real privilege to get to do the warm-up with him.”
“His hands were good actually,” said Salmon. “That surprised me. He had good hand-eye coordination, good reactions.”
After proving to Salmon that he deserved a shot, Poole was given the nod, and maybe even a chance to impress?
“I think I gave up six goals (in 16 minutes),” admitted Poole. “Maybe some of them took it easy on me because these guys can really shoot.”
While his debut performance may not have been everything that he dreamed, Poole can still see himself having a career in net.
“I think I’m about a solid seventh-string MLS goalkeeper,” said Poole confidently.
Poole nearly had another chance against Ventura the next day when Thomas too was overpowered by the stomach virus. Luckily for the Whitecaps, though, Jay Nolly was able to battle through his sickness and play the full 90 minutes for the team in their 2-1 victory against the Ventura County Fusion.
“It’s a good thing that he was feeling better,” said Poole. “Or else it probably would have been 7-2.”