By BOB MACKIN, 24 HOURS
Vancouver Whitecaps' head coach Teitur Thordarson might have to flip a coin or play rock-paper-scissors to decide between goalkeepers "Nolly the Goalie" and "Savin' Serge" for tomorrow's season opener against the Montreal Impact at Swangard Stadium.
"It has been quite hard to choose one of them," Thordarson said. "When we come to picking out the team for Saturday of course we have to do that, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to appoint a number one for the season. I will most probably not do that."
Belgrade-born, 25-year-old Serge Djekanovic won two CIS titles in three seasons with the University of B.C. Thunder-birds. He returns to the Whitecaps after going 2-3-2 last year with MLS' Toronto FC. His only two Whitecaps' appearances were a 2005 friendly with England's Sunderland AFC and the 2006 Nations Cup exhibition against India.
Jay Nolly, a 26-year-old Littleton, Colo. native, signed with Vancouver after three seasons as a backup for two MLS teams. His only 2007 start for D.C. United was a loss to Real Salt Lake, where he spent the previous two years. He won 51 games and had 30 shutouts for the Indiana University Hoosiers during a college career punctuated by consecutive NCAA championship titles.
"We wish we would've played more in the past seasons, we've been backups at the high level," Djekanovic said. "Ultimately you want to play as much as possible."
Djekanovic and Nolly give new head coach Thordarson something previous head coach Bob Lilley never had in 2007: Stability.
Djekanovic was among six goalkeepers who departed Vancouver before, during or after the campaign.
Backup Josh Wicks sought his release in early 2007 to gain more playing time and ended up leading the Portland Timbers to a second-place finish. When Djekanovic went east, ex-Toronto Lynx goalkeeper Richard Goddard came west. Goddard was suddenly saddled with the starting job in June when No. 1 stopper Tony Caig quit the team to return to England for a family illness.
Lilley signed journeyman German Lutz Pfannenstiel, but let him languish on the sidelines. Finally Matt Nelson came north on loan after backstopping the Harrisburg City Islanders to the second division championship.
Vancouver allowed just 24 goals in 2007. Only the league champion Seattle Sounders, Portland and Montreal were stingier. The goalkeeping revolving door hinted toward a club in turmoil. That was evident at the other end of the field where Vancouver's 27-goal output was the league's second worst.