Third-string goalkeepers don’t usually play for championships. But D.C. United’s Andrew Dykstra – who will play in Saturday’s USL Pro title match while on loan with the Charleston Battery - is not your typical back-up’s back-up.
“In terms of having a guy like Andrew as your so-called number three, there is really no comparison in the rest of the league,” said D.C. goalkeeper – and assistant – coach Pat Onstad. “We are very fortunate to have a guy with that sort of experience.”
Dykstra’s experience - which already includes a stint as Chicago’s starting goalie in 2010 - will be further enhanced this weekend, when the 26-year-old plays in his first championship match at the professional level. The Woodbridge, Virginia native has played a critical role for the Battery this summer, appearing in 22 matches while allowing a paltry 1.07 goals-against-average along the way. His nine shutouts rank second in USL Pro.
In last weekend’s semifinal match against Rochester, Dykstra turned in his best performance yet. He made three saves, and saw a fourth shot miss, in the penalty kick shootout that pushed Charleston into Saturday’s final.
“I was more excited than anything,” Dykstra said of the dramatic shootout. “I bounced around and slapped some guys on the back, it was more upbeat than anything else. Usually you ask a goalie to make one save. Unfortunately we missed one or two and I was able save a few so I was pretty happy about it.”
“To be honest I heard they won in PK’s and I didn’t want to ask,” Onstad admitted. “Then I came back and heard he stopped three. He did a pretty good job, [it] certainly didn’t have anything to do with me.”
Dykstra has played 1800 minutes this season for Charleston, far more than he would have seen in Washington behind Bill Hamid and Joe Willis. According to Onstad, the consistent play has made Dykstra more confident – and better prepared should he be called upon by United.
“When you are the third [goalie] it’s probably the most difficult position in the league,” Onstad said Wednesday. “It’s tough to get even reserve minutes so it has been good that he’s been able to get games down there. To get to a final I think that’s a fantastic experience.”
After practicing with D.C. in the morning, Dykstra prepared for a return to Charleston on Wednesday night. He’ll get a pair of training sessions in with the Battery before Saturday’s final – against the Wilmington Hammerheads – at Blackbaud Stadium.
“For me it’s more about calming down and working on what I need to do,” Dykstra said of his approach to the final. “I don’t like to get into what media is talking about or how people portray the game from the outside. If I do my job and everybody else does there job, we’ll win the game.”