COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens regularly finds himself dominating MLS highlight reels for his now trademark acrobatic saves. But on July 25, Pickens hopes to find himself somewhere else: on the field of PPL Park for the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, an honor the 30-year-old has been shooting for all season.
“I’m trying hard,” Pickens told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I think this was the first year I told my goalkeeper coach [David Kramer], ‘Hey, let’s shoot for a goal this year. Let’s be Goalkeeper of the Year.’ It’s possible. I can do it. That’s what I’m shooting towards.”
Before Pickens can be Goalkeeper of the Year, however, the seven-year MLS veteran will have to make his first-ever All-Star appearance, an honor many within the Rapids organization felt should’ve been granted to him last year.
This season, however, Pickens may have the best statistical proof yet that he deserves a spot on the All-Star team. Pickens is second in MLS with 44 saves and has four shutouts in 12 games despite playing behind a Rapids defense that has seen plenty of new faces already.
And there’s more to the veteran ‘keeper than simple talent for stopping shots.
“His communication is unbelievable,” Rapids defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com. “A lot of people don’t realize that and it goes unnoticed, but as a defender that plays into it. … He keeps guys on the same page, and his page. His shot-blocking ability is as good as anybody as I’ve seen this year and the past couple years.”
When asked whether Pickens should be an All-Star, Rapids coach Oscar Pareja offered a short and simple response.
“Yes,” Pareja said. “I have no doubt that he’s the best 'keeper in the league.”
But despite the accolades and the lofty expectations he’s placed upon himself, Pickens isn’t losing sleep over the possibility of an All-Star berth.
“It’s obviously a great honor but I know there’s a lot of politics involved and stuff,” Pickens said. “I just try and put my head down and work and if I get called then great, I’m happy for it, but if not, that’s the way my life goes. … I try not to worry about things I can’t control.”
NOTE: On May 6, Pickens set a new club mark for shutouts when he earned his 26th clean sheet with Colorado in a 2-0 win at Dallas. He is two wins away from being the all-time Wins leader by a Rapids goalkeeper.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.