PERKINS OUT TO PROVE HIMSELF
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins says he has every intention of using this month's US national team training camp as another opportunity to keep his name towards the top of Bob Bradley's goalkeeper list in preparation of next summer's World Cup.
Perkins wrapped up his second season with Norwegian club Valerenga back in November helping the club break out of a mid-summer slump and finish in the top half of the league standings. 2009 also saw Perkins land a spot as the primary goalkeeper during the USMNT's run to the finals of the Gold Cup.
With the national team training camp in full swing in Carson, California, Perkins is clearly focused on proving himself to head coach Bob Bradley that he should be one of the three goalkeepers to earn a trip to South Africa this summer.
"I don't know where I stand on the list of [national team] goalkeepers, but that's really not for me to decide," Perkins told YA following a training session at the camp. "My job is to come and work and be fit. When you get a chance to come here [to the camp], you have to prove yourself and when you get back to your club, you've got to keep playing and keep your name towards the top of their [coaches'] list."
The native of Springfield, Ohio is joined in camp with several other veteran netminders including Chivas USA's Zach Thornton and Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando. Perkins and Rimando flip-flopped as the starting goalkeeper for DC United during the 2004 season while Perkins and Thornton have gone head to head in several tense MLS encounters.
Despite the rivalries between the three, Perkins gladly points out that he is pleased to be working alongside the 36 year old Thornton and 30 year old Rimando on the same squad.
"It's great to see these guys [Thornton and Rimando] back in the mix. Nick had a great season winning the MLS Cup and being named MVP of the championship game," added Perkins. "I think Zach had a good year and looked like his old self moving around goal and eating everything up. No matter where they are in their careers, these guys can still play."
Following the conclusion of camp, the former United man will hop back on a plane and join his Valerenga teammates for training camp as the 2010 Eliteserien kicks off in March.
This year is full of promise for the Oslo club who are looking to build off a late season run that almost saw them snatch a Europa League berth. Perkins and company were also part of one of the most thrilling matches in Norway last year when they ultimately succumbed 6-3 in extra time to Molde in the Norwegian Cup semifinal where Valerenga played down a man in the final 50 minutes yet still came close to pulling off the upset.
The gutsy play exhibited in that match by the 2008 Norwegian Cup champions was lauded by fans all around Norway and it comes as no surprise to the 28 year old who says that the people in the Scandinavian country have an appreciative eye for quality play.
"The fans [in Norway] are fantastic. They are well-educated on the game. If you give it your all and don't win, then they are OK with everything. But the times when you are not serious or giving your best is when they get on you. As long as you come every day and give all you have, then they will love you," explained Perkins.
For a player who once had to supplement his playing income with jobs at a Dick's Sporting Goods Store and a local bank, the opportunity to play soccer for a full-time living overseas is appreciated by the 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year who is always quick to reflect on his humble roots.
"[Playing soccer] is a huge difference than working at Dick's or at a bank," he chuckled. "But you got to do what you got to do sometimes. It teaches you to be a good professional and I think those things have served me well."
Perkins and the rest of the USMNT camp square off in a friendly versus fellow World Cup participants Honduras on January 23rd and will conclude camp two days later on the 25th.