- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

Troy Perkins’ Major League Soccer salary is so low that he has to work part-time in a sporting goods store to pay his bills — a typical plight for what MLS calls “developmental players.”

Perkins failed to get drafted but joined D.C. United after being spotted at a player combine in Carson, Calif. Though he might have entered through the back door, the former third-stringer suddenly finds himself as United’s top goalie, bypassing former No.1 keeper Nick Rimando and backup Doug Warren.

Perkins, 22, will start his third straight game before a Freddy Adu-induced crowd of more than 25,000 today at Soldier Field as United (3-4-3, 12 points) plays the tough Chicago Fire (3-2-4, 13 points).

United has tested three goalies in its first 10 games, and the University of Evansville graduate seems to have landed the top job. Whether he holds the job after confronting talented Chicago forwards Ante Rasov and Damani Ralph remains to be seen.

“Troy is a diamond in the rough,” said United goalie coach Mark Simpson. “This is not a demotion for anybody [else].”

Don’t tell that to Rimando and Warren.

Rimando, who started for the last two years under former coach Ray Hudson, has looked shaky this year. Three games into the season, he was replaced by Warren for one match. After Rimando gave up four goals in the space of 10 minutes against the Los Angles Galaxy last month, coach Peter Nowak crooked a finger at Perkins.

“I really didn’t expect to play until later in the season in some exhibition matches here and there, so I was a little surprised,” Perkins said.

Perkins, who says he works 25 to 30 hours a week in the fitness department at Galyan’s in Fairfax to supplement a soccer salary of less than $20,000, seems to be just what United needs at this stage: a commanding figure in the goal area who is not afraid to come out and get the ball. And the stats all seem to support him.

“We’re trying to find someone to command the box, and Troy has done that,” Simpson said. “He’s had 15 catches and punches through two games, and looking through the stats, it’s more than anybody else had. Once you get used to coming out and getting balls in the box, you kind of become comfortable with it.”

And, noted United president Kevin Payne, “Nicky [Rimando] in all the games he has played [seven] only has 12 catches and punches, so Troy has been more active in the box and covers a bigger area in the box.”

But is it good for a team to have three goalies sitting on tenterhooks?

“I guess in some ways you would prefer one guy playing so well there’s no question about it, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Payne said. “It’s up to somebody to take that job and win it and hold on to it.”

Perkins, who had played only what he calls “amateur ball” with the Cape Cod Crusaders before joining United, wants to do just do that. The native of Worthington, Ohio, and longstanding Columbus Crew fan had a fine game last week at the New England Revolution. He appeared to make a brilliant save on Taylor Twellman’s penalty kick, but the ball hit the post.

“It really looked like it, but I didn’t touch it,” Perkins said. “I was pretty confident I had it covered.”

It’s that kind of confidence that could keep Rimando and Warren warming the bench.

United notes — Don’t tell Payne that D.C. United lacks fitness, as this columnist did last week. “The difference between this team and last year’s is like night and day,” the club president said. “We have shape. We dominate possession and lead the league in shots on goal [65]. Teams don’t want to play us. If we do have a problem, it’s finishing.” …

Everyone wants a piece of Adu, who turned 15 on Wednesday. Even the highbrow New Yorker magazine is preparing a profile on the D.C. United forward for an August issue. …

Midfielders Earnie Stewart and Bobby Convey were named to Bruce Arena’s 22-man roster for the U.S. team’s World Cup qualifier against Grenada on June13 at Columbus Crew Stadium. … Former United assistant coach John Trask has been named assistant coach with the Dallas Burn.

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