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Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens adjusts to starting role

Like every other member of the Colorado Rapids squad, goalkeeper Matt Pickens will be disappointed to have conceded yet another goal from a set piece on Saturday against New England. Of the five goals allowed by the Rapids this year, none have come from open play this MLS season.

The Revolution’s Marko Perovic momentarily tied up the game at 1-1 on a ball curled over the wall and past Pickens. It was what head coach Gary Smith called an “exquisite free kick.”

Pickens has been ever present in the team this season and was solid for the most part against New England, much as he has been during all his time with the Rapids. He is now firmly entrenched as the number one goalkeeper in Colorado after spending a lot of last season alternating with his counterpart on Saturday, Preston Burpo.

With consistent playing time comes more consistent scrutiny and Pickens acknowledges not all has been plain sailing for him in the opening few games of the season. In the 1-0 loss to Kansas City earlier this month, a fatal hesitation saw the ball loop over him and into the goal from a free kick. Against Chivas in the opening game of the season, the Missouri-born goalkeeper was wont to punch away most of the balls coming into the penalty box.

What most people may not realize was how wet the field was in that opening game against Chivas.

“The thing is, they watered it like crazy,” Pickens said. “It was really wet that game. One of the first shots that came up me, it bounced up. It was like [juggling] meatballs.”

And, like every other number one in the MLS, Pickens said he is still adjusting to the new ball.

“I don’t want to take any chances with the new ball,” he said. “I want to eventually learn more about these balls where I can feel comfortable catching. It is a very different ball from last year and previous years.”

Wet field and a new style ball, hence the punching in that opening game. Pickens looks as if he is getting closer to figuring out the new ball as he has punched noticeably less since the Chivas game.

As for errors, everyone makes them and he is big enough to admit it.

“You are never going to have a perfect season,” he said. “The best goalkeepers in the world have their bad days, too. Of course I am going to make mistakes. I’m going to make more, I know I will. I just want to limit those, of course. You just have to keep going in a long season to try and put yourself in the best position possible.”

Pickens is delighted with the Rapids’ start to the season. There is still a long way to go, however.

“It’s early but I think we are in a decent spot,” he said. “I think it could be better, it can always be better. We have a good attitude in the group right now, we are always out here working. There’s nobody bigger than anybody else.”

The Rapids are on the road in San Jose this coming Saturday, May 1.