Crepeau repays Floro's faith with stellar international debut
The 21-year-old Montreal Impact product hasn't played a minute in MLS, but he didn't look out of place in his first full international match, says Rudi Schuller.
While Maxime Crepeau's first-ever international cap at the senior level for Canada wasn't exactly a trial by fire in terms of needing a result, it was still a heady test for a goalkeeper who has yet to play a single minute for the team that owns his professional contract.
A Montreal Impact homegrown player, Crepeau has toiled at the youth levels and between the posts for USL side FC Montreal while awaiting his chance at the big leagues. It's not a slight on the young man's ability — he's still only 21 years old, a baby in goalkeeping terms — but it was still a relative surprise to see him thrust into the de facto No. 1 role by Benito Floro for Canada's winter training camp in Southern California.
Crepeau was summoned by Canada's coach alongside two other international goalkeeping neophytes in Tyson Farago and Callum Irving, and while Crepeau is the youngest of the three he also boasts the most experience wearing the Maple Leaf. While Crepeau hadn't yet played a minute of senior team soccer under Floro, he was a relative veteran at the youth levels — most recently backstopping Canada's Olympic qualifying squad that came within a game of heading to Rio 2016.
Even so, a wealth of experience playing against kids and lower-level professionals isn't generally enough to earn the starting job in a full international match. Such is the depth of talent in Canada's slowly expanding player pool, where vets Milan Borjan and Kenny Stamatopoulos are virtual locks to make Floro's roster whenever the games fall on FIFA-designated international matchdays.
However, Friday's contest was not on one of those days, and the Canadian squad was mostly made up of out-of-season North American-based players. Crepeau, who looks to battle Eric Kronberg for the backup spot in Montreal behind incumbent Evan Bush this year, was one of those players.
And he made the most of his opportunity.
Facing a United States side that featured the likes of Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and new American golden boy Jordan Morris, Crepeau stood tall from the opening minute. He confidently made himself an outlet for under-fire defenders to pass back to when needed, and he commanded his area with smart decisions and positioning.
Crepeau's first save was an unorthodox one — he gobbled up an Altidore effort that had rung off the post and fortuitously ricocheted off of his head and back against the woodwork in the 20th minute. From then on out the young netminder made several more traditional stops, including an 83rd minute acrobatic scoop-save off the line after Altidore had broken free of his defender and attempted to chip the onrushing Canadian 'keeper.
That Altidore would eventually find the game's only goal in the 89th minute was immaterial to Crepeau's overall performance, as the Impact youth product showed over the full course of the game that Floro was right to entrust him with the No. 1 jersey for Canada's opening match of 2016.
And while the youngster is far off from claiming the responsibility when the games start to matter again, it's good for the program to know that the next generation's leading shot stopper is ready to step in when the time finally comes.
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