I have a secret to admit – I love the attitude of seventeen year olds. Cocky? Arrogant? I’ve always believed that confidence should exceed talent by a simple 2:1 ratio. When the sun-earth-moon align, the solar eclipse can blind one with power and beauty. However, in my opinion, there is nothing uglier than when vision-reach-grasp align.
I know that Van der Sar set EPL records with his shutout streak last season. I know that his positioning exudes confidence. But I also saw the Champions League final – he was beat nearpost on the first goal, and did not even anticipate or make an attempt at Xavi’s cross for the second. In short, the rust showed itself against quality opposition. Van der Saar is also no spring chicken at 38.
Enter Ben Foster. At 26 years of age, he is about to enter his prime. While a goalie can last until his mid-40’s, the decline in athleticism manifests itself in subtle ways. Goalies cheat on their angles. Anticipation becomes trepidation. Not so long ago, an aging German goalkeeper got red-carded in a Champions League final, losing his job the following season to an up-and-coming Spaniard.
Foster played a crucial role in Watford’s climb to the Premiership summit. He also found a creative use for the ipod: predicting penalty kicks, and used his technology savvy to guide United to a League Cup. Could this be Foster’s breakout year?
I know what your thinking – the last young, athletic, confident goalkeeper lost his nerves in a crucial Champions League home-tie. But Foster has shown excellent decision-making thus far into the season. While most young goalkeepers try to catch every cross, he has held his line when called upon. However, unlike Van der Saar, he has the vigor and legs to come off his line in a flurry.
While an argument could be made for Foster failing to reach the Arshavin blast this past Saturday, in that same game he pulled off a fantastic save on Van Persie. I don’t believe that two wrongs make a right, but his stop was a turning point in the game for United. When was the last time Van der Sar stood on his head to turn a tie?
Granted, Van der Saar did make the save on Anelka’s penalty-kick to give United the Champions League title. But sentimentality and sport go together like water and oil. Football is a young man’s game, and Foster surely deserves a run of games to prove his worth.
Elliott is the editor of Futfanatico.com
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