MICHAEL ADUBATO - Thursday, August 9, 2007
As has been the norm for the better part of a decade, French yo-yo club Troyes bounced back down to the second division after a disastrous season, bringing with them their 21-year old American goalkeeper.
Despite the ensuing relegation to Ligue 2, a silver lining was expected to appear for Quentin Westberg.
Troyes #1 keeper, Ronan Le Crom was rescued from the sunken ship and returned to Ligue 1 with Lens for the new campaign. The obvious choice was to make the #2 the #1, but this didn't happen on the team that is surrounded by the cellars of France's Champagne region.
"A lot of people assumed I would be #1," Westberg told YA stoutly. "To be honest, I think I deserved my shot."
"After Le Crom left, I was the only keeper with years left on my contract at the club, so they had to look for another one."
As has happened recently with former Under-20 teammate Benny Feilhaber, Westberg saw an entirely new coaching staff brought into the team. Fittingly, the should-have-been new backup keeper ended up number one on the depth chart.
Human nature leads one to go with what they know and the new Troyes coach Jean-Marc Furlan was no different. Instead of giving the American the nod, he signed Cyrille Merville from Amiens, a player he had worked with in the past.
"They arrived in a club with the pressure of building up a team that would be a favorite to go straight back up," Westberg suggested. "The new coach brought in a keeper he had already coached a few years ago in a different club, so at the start of the season he knew him and not me."
"I talked to the previous coaching staff before they left, and they had planned to play me the first five or six games of the season, and then establish me as the number one or number two depending on how I performed."
This was not to be for the French-born American who saw this decision as something that was beyond his control.
"It is [frustrating not to be given the chance to start], but a decision had to be made and now I just have to prove them wrong."
"On a personal standpoint, I know I did well [during the preseason], had a lot of playing time in our games and had solid performances."
Although Troyes have four out of a possible six points thus far with Westberg riding the pine, the product of the famous Clairefontaine soccer academy southwest of Paris, remains very optimistic about his chances of getting some playing time.
"We had a talk a few days into the preseason with the president, the head coach, my agent and I, to set the tone for the upcoming season," Westberg said.
"What stood out of the conversation was that they counted a lot on me to show I could start despite my young age, and that I would be fighting for the starting job with a more experienced keeper of the second division level."
If Merville continues to play well and stays healthy, understandably, it is going to be hard to change the coach's mind about starting the young American in his place. No coach likes to make player changes when the team is winning, and if this is the case come the end of the year, Westberg would be given the option of going out on loan.
"My president agreed to release me if I wanted in December to get first team experience," Westberg claimed. "My agent has been talking to a few clubs to see what could be done and it sounds good."
On the other hand, the veteran of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, is not ruling out any possibilities, and that includes a move away from Troyes, his only professional club to date, which signed him back in 2002.
"I would consider a loan, and why not simply a definitive transfer?" asked the longtime Troyes keeper.
"I think that if the club I was raised a pro soccer player with doesn't want to give me my shot, and that I have that opportunity elsewhere, I would want to commit to that club and give everything I've got, not just for six months."
This possibility has been looked into with positive feedback already, but the youngster, is not ready to turn his back on the only professional club he has known.
"Before talking about leaving the club, I'll be entirely focused on winning the starting job and winning with my team."