Jimmy Maurer after making a save against the Portland Timbers earlier this season. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
After toiling in the North American Soccer League for six seasons, FC Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer certainly is a leading candidate to note the differences between Major League Soccer and his old league.
Maurer performed five seasons for the Cosmos and one with the Atlanta Silverbacks.
“It’s one of those things where they are very similar in ways in terms of professional game being a professional soccer game and then they can be miles apart when you think about other things,” he said.
MLS has 24 teams. In 2017, the NASL dropped from 12 to eight teams and is sitting out 2018 after the U.S. Soccer Federation rescinded its Division II sanction.
“We had great quality in the NASL,” Maurer said by telephone Thursday. “I was able to play with and against some really great players.”
“The differences from top to bottom on a roster are big, I think, when you’re making the jump to MLS,” he said. “The quality overall is better. It’s a top division and it shows in that regard. On the weekend it just continues to be the small details. They’re margins, They may not be big margin, the difference in quality from the NASL to MLS, they’re small margins [that] make a difference week after week after week. And that’s what it’s about.”
There is also a big difference off the field. Most MLS teams have a soccer-specific stadium they can call their own. Most teams in the NASL played their matches at college stadiums, so they weren’t the primary tenant. So, if a stadium had artificial turf, that’s what a team was stuck with.
“Again, you have the infrastructure and things, the stadiums we’re playing in,” said Maurer, who will suit up for FC Dallas against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium Sunday at 6:30 p.m. “The surfaces really help the game, being able to play on well-taken care of grass surfaces as opposed to a lot of synthetic turf, [which] really affects the game play as well.”
(Ironically, Maurer and FC Dallas Sunday will play at Yankee Stadium, the lone baseball park in MLS and the narrowest field).
Since joining FC Dallas from the Cosmos in December, Maurer said that he “had to raise my game, improve a lot of small technical things, a lot of small details.”
FC Dallas goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan has worked with Maurer on refining his game, using some little details.
“Just a lot of little details,” Mauer said. “A yard difference, or a half yard difference in terms positioning on a cross or maybe having my hands three or four inches higher on a set position. There’s these little differences to the naked eye, especially even someone who is not a goalkeeper may not see, but they can be a big difference. As a goalkeeper, sometimes it’s just the difference between making a great save and giving up a goal.
“Reach and how much ground you can cover could be all the difference in the world in a game. It’s really a critical look, at inches, and lifestyle of play. I’m 29-years-old. I’m not going to have any drastic changes at this point, but at the same time, these little details, little changes could be making a big difference.”
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