ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — Brad Stuver is a six-year professional and has a total of four regular-season appearances.
Such is the life of a backup goalkeeper.
Stuver, in his second season at New York City FC, is likely to get his first start of 2019 on Thursday at Yankee Stadium against FC Cincinnati – although City’s coaching staff has yet to confirm a replacement for Sean Johnson who was called into U.S. men’s national team camp.
“I know the coach has been happy with my performance in training,” Stuver told Pro Soccer USA after training on Monday. “We normally don’t get the starting lineup until the night before the game. So I’m just going to prepare like I do every week. If my name gets called, I’ll be ready.”
Johnson has started all 13 NYCFC matches with six clean sheets and ranks in the top third of MLS goalkeepers with a 1.15 goals against average.
Stuver has been on the bench as Johnson’s back-up for each match, but head coach Dome Torrent said on Monday that he needed to consult with his goalkeeper coach, Rob Vartughian, before naming the starter for Thursday.
“It’s a chance for Brad, even for Luis (Barraza),” Torrent said. “We have to decide in the last moment. My feeling is we have three amazing keepers. I have to speak about that with Rob because he’s the boss in that moment when we decide on the keeper.”
New York City traded up to select Barraza 12th overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft after four years at Marquette University.
An Ohio native, Stuver is a graduate of Cleveland State University and began his MLS career with Columbus Crew SC where he served as the reserve ‘keeper from 2014-17 before a trade sent him to NYCFC.
The 28-year old Stuver has been the second choice behind three quality goalkeepers in his six seasons – Steve Clark and Zack Steffen with Crew SC and Johnson in the Bronx. The latter two are currently training with former Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT.
“Yeah, we always joke that I kind of had bad luck, just like sitting behind those guys,” Stuver said. “I sat behind Steve Clark, whose name was being brought up for the national team and he was an iron man that didn’t really get injured at all. And I sat behind Steff and he was a national team player and never got injured. And now I sit behind Sean and he’s with the national team and never gets injured.”
Although Johnson suffered from a shoulder ailment in the summer of 2018 which afforded Stuver his only two regular appearances in an NYCFC kit – a 2-2 draw against Vancouver on August 4 followed by a 3-2 road triumph at Toronto FC. Stuver was also in goal at Red Bull Arena when the New York Red Bulls thrashed City in the U.S. Open Cup, 4-0.
Stuver said he is confident in the NYCFC system after his encounter with Berhalter in Columbus.
“I was with Gregg and I got thrown into the fire of his system with goalkeepers playing out of the back with everything,” said Stuver, who appeared just twice for Crew SC. “It’s been about six seasons now where I’ve been in a system where the goalkeeper has to have good feet. So that’s one of the areas of my game where I’m very confident. I like the style that we play here. And hopefully there’s no difference between me and Sean.”
After Johnson moved from the Chicago Fire to NYCFC four years ago, his distribution upgrade gained the attention of the new national team coach. Consequently, Johnson was summoned to Berhalter’s initial camp in January.
“Sean has done a lot of work with his feet,” Stuver said. “I mean, Chicago didn’t really play out of the back, the time he was there. But as soon as Sean came to New York City he evolved so quickly. Credit to him because it’s very difficult to learn how to play with your feet. But Sean was able to get outside of his comfort zone and now he’s probably one of the best goalkeepers in the league with his feet.”
With Johnson away at the moment, Stuver senses that he will be afforded the rare opportunity to organize a group in front of him on a match day. Johnson will be absent on Thursday and again on Wednesday, June 12 when City hosts North Carolina FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“I started fourth string my first year, and I’ve worked my way up to number two,” Stuver said. “I’m excited. We’ve been preparing all year. I’m super confident going in with the guys. I’m just happy to be able to get some games here.”