Making his case to start

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United goalie Zach Wells needed 16 games to earn his first shutout this season. Louis Crayton needed just one.

Crayton, whom United signed to challenge Wells for the starting job, helped United shut out the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Saturday in his debut with the team.

“I thought he managed the box very well,” United coach Tom Soehn said.

While Soehn said Crayton’s status will be determined over a number of games, the Liberian native has made a good case to claim the starting role.

“A debut game is always an important game for a new player, and I’m glad we played collectively as a team,” Crayton said.

Before coming to United, Crayton spent 11 years playing in Switzerland. In the last three years he was the backup goalie at FC Basel, a club that has competed in the Champions League.

“He’s played in some big games - international games - and in a big league in Switzerland for arguably their biggest club,” United goalkeeping coach Mark Simpson said.

The jovial 30-year-old has blended in quickly with his new teammates.

“He brings a lot to the locker room,” United defender Devon McTavish said.

After blanking Chicago - United’s second shutout in 19 games this season - Crayton has given his new club confidence going into Wednesday’s game at the New England Revolution.

“When the guys look back at the goalkeeper - the rock between the pipes - they want to see the body language, and I thought that Louis brought that body language,” Simpson said.

Crayton came to the organization’s attention through United forward Francis Doe, who’s also a Liberian native.

“I heard D.C. was looking for a new goalkeeper, so I just thought Louis could be the best guy,” said Doe, who mentioned his countryman’s name to United general manager Dave Kasper.

Doe, 22, first met Crayton when he was a 13-year-old at a refugee camp in Ghana in 1999.

“I saw this young kid playing with great talent,” Crayton recalled.

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