Before the end of the 2017 season, D.C. United knew they were in a position in which they would have to replace goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Hamid, who was one of the first homegrown players signed in MLS back in 2009, had decided to try his luck overseas after seven seasons as United’s starting keeper, signing with FC Midtjylland in Demark at the conclusion of his contract with the Black-and-Red.
United had already prepared for Hamid’s departure by bringing in Steve Clark last August. Clark, who was in goal for the Columbus Crew when they lost the 2015 MLS Cup final, was given a start in United’s last five games of the doomed 2017 season. But United had planned on bringing in competition for the keeper spot, and in January, announced the signing of David Ousted, formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Ousted, a 33-year-old keeper from Denmark, was the runner up in 2015 to Luis Robles in MLS’s Goalkeeper of the Year balloting. In late 2017, though, he lost his starting gig to Stefan Marinovic, who the ‘Caps brought in to challenge Ousted.
There were a couple of false starts concerning Ousted would end up after leaving Vancouver, but United were willing to part with a second round draft pick in this past SuperDraft to bring in the 6’3’’ keeper.
“When D.C. called, early on in this whole thing, and wanted to get me in, I was excited to come,” Ousted told B&RU on Monday, in an interview conducted at the team’s hotel in Florida. “The thing that was evident through all of it, was how professional, and how much D.C. wanted to attach me to the club. That meant a lot to me throughout the process, and that’s why I ultimately ended up coming here.”
Through United’s first two preseason games, Ousted has only played once, coming off the bench last weekend to play the second 45 minutes against the Philadelphia Union. Ousted had the flu during the first portion of the team’s preseason, excluding him from the first friendly. And as a new player, on an equal footing with Clark, he had ground to make up to compete with the incumbent.
Now that he’s healthy and fully fit, Ousted and Clark will be battling out to determine who will man the goal on March 3rd, when United kick off the season on the road against Orlando City.
“[The competition] is always good. It pushes you to perform at your best. I’m looking forward to getting in there and making that spot mine,” Ousted said in the interview. “Steve will have the same aspirations. Competition is only healthy, and that competition is throughout the team. You see a lot of spots where its up for grabs. It’s only going to be a positive.”
His manager, Ben Olsen, who has seen his fair share of excellent goalkeeping at D.C. United over the past 20 years, echos the same sentiment. Olsen will ultimately have to decide who the best man for the job is, likely with input from goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton.
“The reason we went and got [Ousted] is pretty obvious. He’s a very good goalkeeper. And he is a starting caliber goalie in the league,” Olsen told B&RU after practice on Tuesday. “We feel like we have two of them. It’s a nice luxury. We are used to having high level goalkeeping at our club, and I trust that will continue.”
“They both have personality. I think it will bring out the best in both players,” Olsen added. “Ultimately one will play, but I foresee both of them getting time for the club.”
As United has seemingly gotten younger as just about every other position on the field over the past year or so, there will be plenty of experience in goal regardless of whether Ousted or Clark is the starter. And that experience will be vital for United, especially in the first half of the season when they play the first 12 of 14 games on the road.
Ousted and his teammates have been aware of the situation they have to navigate. Playing on the road isn’t an easy task in MLS, and the physical and emotional toll it can take has the potential to derail United’s season before they even open up their new digs.
“Especially in this first half of the year, with a lot of away games, it’s up to us veterans to step forward, and make sure we all know what it’s going to take to get results,” said Ousted. “MLS is a difficult league with the travel, and some of the stadiums are tough places to go and play and get results. As a veteran, you need to step forward in those situations, and make sure you take responsibility on your shoulders.”
And while a couple of wins sprinkled in with some draws on the road might help set the course for a successful 2018 season for United, the mindset for Ousted is to go into every game trying to win, which might stray somewhat from previous versions of United.
“You need to go with a mindset that every game can be won,” said Ousted. “And I believe that this team has the ability to go and win those games, and hopefully put ourselves in a great position for when the second half of the season comes.”
“The mindset going into these games is very important, not to just think that we are going somewhere to defend for 90 minutes,” he added. “I don’t think that’s what this team is going to be about. I think we have a lot of good guys that can create chances and score goals.”
The prize at the end of United’s long road in the first half of the season is the christening of Audi Field in July, which will come against Ousted’s former club, the Whitecaps. And though Ousted might not be as invested in what the new stadium will mean to a club that has longed for it, part of the pitch from the team in December and January centered around being about to be part of the team that ran out onto Audi Field for the first time.
“When I visited with D.C. before I signed, they gave me a virtual tour, and went through the whole aspect of getting the new stadium, with the difficulties of getting all that done,” said Ousted. “It’s a huge step for the club. It will do wonders for D.C. as an organization, and fans will love it. It looks amazing.”