FRISCO, Texas– After Jesse Gonzalez was called up to the United States men’s national team March 17, it seemed backup keeper Jimmy Maurer would get his first chance to start in 2019.
But after the U.S. played Ecuador March 21, it flew to Houston — an hour from Dallas — for its next match against Chile. So, Gonzalez returned to his club in between the matches to suit up for a home game against the Rapids. The news of his return came the day before the match, and Maurer had been training as the starting keeper that entire week.
“It was one of those things that the coaches had said that there was a chance that was going to happen,” Maurer said to Pro Soccer USA. “I was just ready for anything. I was ready to play, and when Jesse came back, I was ready on the bench. It was a fluid thing.”
Maurer, 30, is a veteran. He has more than 100 appearances in the North American Soccer League with the New York Cosmos and another 14 MLS appearances for FCD. He’s been through these situations before. He trained with the team’s starters the week leading to Gonzalez’ returned, and though not getting the start was disappointing, Maurer said the extra preparation only helps his game.
“You always want to play,” Maurer said. “Every week, it’s a little disappointing if you don’t play. That one, of course, when there’s that much more edge. But take it in a positive way, if anything, and it was just another week to prepare to start.”
To further prevent stagnation and to get Maurer minutes, Dallas elected to leave him in Frisco to take part in a third-tier USL League One match for North Texas SC, instead of using him as Gonzalez’ backup in FCD’s 4-2 victory over Real Salt Lake March 30. With NTX SC, he made a save in a 3-2 victory over the Chattanooga Red Wolves.
“The longer you go without real, quality, professional league minutes, you have that much more rust to shake off,” Maurer said. “It did help, just getting those reps, seeing those stadium sightlines and playing a real game with a real three points on the line. It was great to get that rhythm, and ended up working out, being right before, and prepared me for Philly.”
After Gonzalez was suspended for violating team rules, Maurer was given the start and came up big in a 2-1 loss against Philadelphia. Maurer made six saves, fought through a gash on his head, and saved a penalty. Even though the penalty was parried out to Cory Burke, who put it into the open net, Maurer’s outing was strong enough to earn him a spot on MLS’ Team of the Week and was rated the highest scorer on the Audi Player Index of the week.
“Jimmy stepped it up, had a good game,” coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “Unlucky that the PK play dipped on him. He made some very important saves and he was good with the ball at his feet. We want him to continue to develop his confidence and his distribution under pressure, and I thought it was a very positive game for him.”
For Maurer, it’s all about the mindset going into training. Take a day off and you might get burned. Continue to train as if you’re the starter, and good things will happen.
“It’s frustrating to not get the win but that’s what it’s all about, just being prepared every week,” Maurer said. “You just never know what’s going to happen. The second you start thinking, ‘Ah, I can relax a little bit. I’m not gonna play, Jesse’s here,’ that’s when you get put in and that’s when you’re exposed. You just always have to think that chance is going to come, and you got to be ready for it and show well for yourself.”