While there is competition all over the field for starting spots in the Crew's preseason camp, perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the Black & Gold's first match on March 8 at D.C. United is the man in net. Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter continues to keep a watchful eye on the competition amongst the Crew's four goalkeepers in camp.
Returnee Matt Lampson and newcomer Steve Clark split the 90 minutes between the posts evenly to help the Black & Gold to a 1-0 victory against Swedish champion Malmö FF in the club's lone preseason match thus far. With Lampson and Clark emerging as the frontrunners, second-year pros Dan Withrow and Brad Stuver are also in competition for the third spot on the team's depth chart.
Lampson started 13 of the final 16 matches in 2013, recording five shutouts on his way to a 7-6-0 record in his second season after signing a Homegrown Player contract following a standout career at The Ohio State University.
In December, the Crew traded allocation money and a 2015 Fourth Round MLS SuperDraft pick to Seattle Sounders FC to acquire Clark before dealing veteran Andy Gruenebaum to Sporting Kansas City. The Michigan native spent the past four seasons in Norway, helping Hønefoss BK to promotion and posted 26 shutouts in that time.
The competition for the starting spot is nothing new for either player.
"We're all competing all the time," Clark explained. "It doesn't stop now, that's just who you are. You're a professional soccer player, but you could really call yourself professional competitor. The competition is going to be going, it was started way before [preseason]. It'll be going next year.
"Where ever you go, it's always a competition."
Hopeful to continue his success from 2013, Lampson believes the open competition for every position -- including goalkeeper -- will benefit the Black & Gold down the road.
"One thing I really like about Coach Berhalter and his regime right now is that all the spots are up for grabs," Lampson said. "Whenever you have competition like that, it breeds success. It brings out the best in everybody.
"I think we have an incredible roster on hand and whoever [Berhalter] thinks is the guy to be in the spot, that's who is the best is on field."
Also benefitting all four 'keepers is having new Assistant Coach Pat Onstad to learn from. The former Canadian National Team net minder is a two-time MLS Best XI selection, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Cup winner.
"[Onstad] is one of the best in MLS history, the guy has won MLS Cups," Lampson said. “He’s going to make me a better goalkeeper. I'm going to try to be the best goalkeeper I can be and I know he's going to help me get there."
Lampson continued: "He's been working us hard in the preseason and I think it shows. I think everybody is really playing top-notch soccer right now from the last guy on the roster to the first.
"It's incredible, the work ethic he instills, and I think [Onstad] is going to make me a better player because of it."