Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Celtic match marked debut for back-up keeper Jennings

Jordan Jennings had no clue what he was getting into Sunday when the Sounders faced Celtic FC. Kasey Keller wouldn’t start because of and ankle injury he suffered against D.C. United and back-up goalkeeper Terry Boss was slated to get the start. The best Jennings could hope for was that he would get in the game as a substitute for Boss either at halftime or later in the second half. What he didn’t expect is that he would be thrust into the game to face a World Cup-caliber player head-to-head.

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Half an hour into the supposedly friendly match Georgios Samaras, a Celtic FC forward, sprung an attack that left the Sounders’ defense scrambling to catch up. Boss smartly came out of goal to challenge the charging forward but as he made his dive for the ball, Boss inadvertently tripped Samaras, drawing a straight red card and ejection from referee Paul Ward.

"I saw the red card come up and I was extremely nervous, and thought, ‘Is this really happening?’” said Jennings after the match.

Reality set in as Jennings trotted out to the goal to defend a penalty shot against Samaras, who Jennings had watched in the World Cup only weeks before.

“I was like, 'Wow, that guy? Is the long haired Greek guy really taking a penalty on me right now? I do remember him from the World Cup. Unfortunately I guessed the wrong way."

After conceding the penalty against the long-haired Greek guy, Jennings settled down and made several key saves in his first start at the MLS level.

“Once you make a couple of plays everything just goes away. I started feeling more comfortable then I thought I would be. You wouldn't think you would feel comfort like that but I did. The butterflies went away after I made the first save."

Jennings, who is on loan to the Sounders from the Tacoma Tide of the USL Premier Development League, received praise from Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid.

"Jordan, for a kid who isn't normally on our team and has been playing PDL, which is a couple of division below, I thought he did well. It's unfortunate that Boss needs to continue to get game time and he missed out on the game time. Jordan equated himself well and came up with a couple of good saves. He snagged a perfect one going to his left. Last night he played in front of 25 people and today he stepped on the field and played in front of 40,000."

Sounders fans can relax knowing that the back-up to their back-up goalkeeper has the skills and confidence to take on world-class talent.

Reach Galen Helmgren at nextseasonsports@gmail.com