With keeper Bill Hamid on the mend and out of action last Saturday for D.C. United's clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps, United's third string keeper, Travis Worra made his way to Canada to back up Andrew Dykstra in goal. Little did he know, that despite being on the bench, that he'd be called upon for his first MLS action, earning the victory in United's 2-1 defeat of the 'Caps.
But Sean Franklin landed on Dykstra's ankle trying to block a shot, and the former VCU keeper couldn't continue early in the second half. On came Worra, with the score tied 1-1.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous. But I felt prepared, ready to do my job," Worra told B&RU. "It was exciting to get my first MLS minutes, but more important than that, we had 32 minutes left in the game. My biggest focus was to make sure that I could go in, and help secure the three points on the road."
At that point, Vancouver were down to ten men, and United were just minutes away from scoring the winner, courtesy of Chris Rolfe. But with the inexperienced Worra in goal, who signed his first professional contract in February, there was still work to be done for United to head back home with all three points.
And despite some shaky moments early, the former University of New Hampshire keeper did his part to not allow any goals, helping United climb back atop of the Eastern Conference.
"I thought he did fine coming in. It was a tough game to be thrown into," United manager Ben Olsen said. "Sometimes that's the best medicine for a young goalkeeper, is to get that out of the way. He held up well. He had a few moments that I'm sure he would have done some things differently, but overall, I am very pleased and happy for him. He came in and helped secure the win."
"That was the most important thing. We got the win, and don't get scored on. That's the biggest role for a goalkeeper, to keep the ball out of the back of the net," Worra added. It definitely showed at first that I was a little nervy. We gave up that indirect free kick, which was a little too slow of a reaction from me. I think after that point I settled in and I felt pretty good."
The indirect free kick came in the 74th minute, and was the result of some miscommunication between Worra and center back Kofi Opare. After Opare tackled the ball away from 'Caps striker Octavio Rivero, the ball was about to trickle out for a corner kick. Worra went down to collect the ball, but at the same time, Opare played it to keep it in.
Hence, it was a pass that Worra wasn't allowed to pick up, and it resulted in an indirect free kick for Vancouver near the corner of the 18 yard box. But United were able to deal with the threat, and managed to see the game out from there.
"We talked about it in the hotel after, [Opare] and I were roommates," Worra said. "We sorted that out, but I take the blame fully on that. We defended [the free kick] well, and after that I felt comfortable."
Part of the reason why Worra was comfortable enough after a couple of anxious moments is due to his time with the Richmond Kickers. After signing with United, it was announced that Worra would head down on loan to Virginia's capital to play in the USL.
Worra, 22, has played three times for Richmond, conceding just one goal. He saved a penalty against the Wilmington Hammerheads, and has picked up two wins and a draw in his three appearances.
"No matter who it is, they go down to Richmond, [manager] Leigh [Cowlishaw] does a good job with them," said Olsen. "The games themselves really help. They come back, and you see it when they train with us or you put them in a game. They are sharper in every aspect."
Just a couple of days before his Vancouver appearance, Worra was up in New Jersey, manning the net for the Kickers in a game against New York Red Bulls II. Worra made two saves en route to his second clean sheet of the season. At that point though, with Hamid not practicing for United, Worra knew he might be on his way to Vancouver to join up with his Black-and-Red teammates.
"I knew a few hours before that Red Bull II game. I got a call from assistant coach Amos [Magee]," Worra recounted to B&RU. "He said 'good luck tonight, on your way back to Richmond they'll be dropping you off at your apartment, fly out the next morning.' I got three hours of sleep that night, and then headed out to the West Coast."
The rest then was history. But as an added bonus, Worra got to make his MLS debut in front of his parents. His parent's made the short drive up to Vancouver just to get the chance to see their son. That visit was made all the more sweeter when he entered the game, and picked up his first career MLS victory.
"It was amazing. You got to expect the unexpected. They only live a little while away [in the Seattle area]," said Worra. "So whether I played or not it was nice to see them and get to spend a couple of days with them. Cherry on top of the cake was to have them see me make my debut. It was a special moment to be able to share that with them."