VANCOUVER, BC – For most people, the first day at a new job is a nerve-racking one.
Highlights: Portland Timbers 1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1
Goalkeeper David Ousted’s MLS debut for Vancouver Whitecaps FC came Aug. 3 on the road versus Portland Timbers – in a Cascadia Cup derby match. As he walked out in front of 20,674 rabid fans at JELD-WEN Field, one with chainsaw in hand, he was inspired by the hostility rather than intimidated.
“You got be mentally prepared for it. I just love to play in those settings,” Ousted told whitecapsfc.com. “I almost calmed down a little bit when I came out to see that, to hear the national anthems and the crowd singing…”
“I love playing in front of a lot of people and with a hostile crowd it makes it even more fun.”
The Danish keeper had been waiting for his moment patiently. He joined the the 'Caps from Randers FC, a Danish Superliga side managed by former Whitecaps FC defender Colin Todd, on June 20. However, with the international transfer window not opening until July 9, Ousted was ineligible to play before then.
But he kept busy.
He got his family settled into a home on the North Shore. On June 29, he hosted a viewing party with club ambassador Carl Valentine at The Pint Public House & Sports Bar as his team was away battling D.C. United. On July 6, before the Blue and White’s historical home win over Seattle Sounders FC, he was available for photographs and autographs on Terry Fox Plaza. A day after that, he donned the 'Caps jersey for the first time in a 4-0 win over the Sounders – albeit in MLS Reserve League play.
It was against Portland when Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie gave the new keeper his chance.
“I prepared myself like I normally do and I tried to take it like any other match,” said Ousted.
Vancouver fought tooth and nail to earn a well-deserved 1-1 draw that evening – a second-half header from left-back Jordan Harvey cancelled out Ryan Johnson’s header. More importantly, Ousted got one of the most difficult games on the MLS schedule out of the way first. In a season where points on the road are at a premium for every team in the tightly contested Western Conference, Ousted’s debut was certainly a success.
Ousted's European highlights
Ousted’s resume from his playing career overseas is quite impressive. He backstopped Randers FC to the Danish Cup final just last year, he has experience playing in the UEFA Europa League (one of the premier club soccer competitions), and he also has international experience with Denmark at the U-21, U-20 and U-19 level.
At his previous club, Randers FC, he recorded 35 clean sheets in 103 appearances. In the 2011-2012 season with the Horses, out of the 24 games Ousted started, he earned a clean sheet in 10 of them – an astonishing shutout rate of 41 per cent.
But after a decade playing soccer professionally in his native country Denmark, he was looking for a new challenge, a new set of experiences, and Vancouver came calling.
When asked what compelled him to take the next chapter of his career here, Ousted said the offer Vancouver put on the table was “the whole package.” It aligned with his love for the outdoors and allowed him the opportunity to develop himself on the pitch.
“I love the mountains," he said. "Denmark doesn’t have mountains, the tallest thing we have is like 200 metres or something."
Another aspect coming abroad to the ‘Caps would offer was the prospect of playing in front of a packed house of 20,000 people every other week at home. Back at AutoC Park Randers, home of his former club, only about 6,000 to 7,000 fans would show up to each game on average.
However, when the move to bring the former Danish youth international keeper became official, many fans were a bit perplexed by the move as the club already had two MLS-proven goalkeepers in Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon, as well as a budding developing Canadian star in Simon Thomas.
The way club president Bob Lenarduzzi saw it, it was an acquisition made for the long term that would crowd the depth chart in the short term.
“We were aware that in the short term that there were would be some surprise in the fact we’d carry four keepers,” Lenarduzzi told whitecapsfc.com. “But we felt that if we didn’t move on him at that time, he would’ve ended up somewhere else and who knows when a keeper of the same ability comes up again.”
The word “presence” is thrown around a lot when discussing Ousted’s goakeeping style. Lenarduzzi praises the Dane’s command of his box especially when it comes to crosses coming into the box. He's also quick to point out Ousted’s excellent distribution of the ball through long throws, which have pinpoint accuracy.
On the pitch, he is a humble player who possesses the confidence to challenge and stop the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Thierry Henry, Clint Dempsey and other star attackers MLS has to offer.
“I think that it's important not to come into a league and be scared of everybody," he said. "You can be amazed by what they’ve done in their career but when you play, you have to think you can shut him out."
While off the pitch, Ousted is involved in a plethora of charity work as his mother passed away from cancer just six years ago. He feels since he is a soccer player who is constantly in the limelight, it gives him an excellent platform to give back.
Before the afternoon training session in which this interview with him took place, he was just at the hospital giving a speech to an organization called Teammates for Children.
Ousted makes a sprawling save Aug. 10 vs. San Jose
A week after the 1-1 draw with Portland, Ousted got the nod from Rennie as the starter for a second straight match – this time it was his home debut versus San Jose Earthquakes.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Dane on 10 minutes, when what looked like a tamely struck shot from Rafael Baca on the edge of the box was mishandled out of play for a corner.
“I made a small mistake in the beginning, but that’s just soccer,” he admitted. “Everybody makes mistakes, you just got to go past them and hopefully have an impact of the game. Luckily, I was a big influence in that game.”
Indeed he was, thanks to two match-changing saves to keep the contest scoreless.
First, he sprawled across the face of goal in the 38th minute to get his fingertips to Cordell Cato’s right-footed effort earmarked for the bottom left corner, Ousted’s effort was later nominated for save of the week. Later on in the 55th minute, he did extremely well to get a finger to Clarence Goodson’s header before Nigel-Reo Coker cleared the potential rebound off the goal line.
After recording his first win in MLS, a shutout at that, Ousted took his time in applauding the BC Place faithful in various sections, soaking in the glee surrounding his new home for soccer for the foreseeable future. By the time he began making his way to the locker room, almost 10 minutes after the final whistle had blown, he was the last player from either team still on the pitch.
“We have great fans, even though I was here for four, five weeks before I played, they’ve been really good to me and everybody welcomed me and said they looked forward to seeing me play,” he said.
“I can’t wait to keep coming into BC Place.”