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Ousted is a big part of Whitecaps' unbeaten start

The Canadian Press

3/27/2014 5:16:48 PM

VANCOUVER -- Peter Schmeichel left a mark on an entire generation of goalkeepers in Denmark.

A larger-than-life personality known for his intimidating style in the 18-yard box, Schmeichel's career spanned some 20 years -- including a memorable tenure at Manchester United.

Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted was one of the young Danes who took notice of the man who played a record 129 times for his country.

"He was definitely a big influence because a couple years in a row there he was the best 'keeper in the world," Ousted said this week. "I was impressed with the saves he made, but also the presence he had when he was playing.

"I think like every other Danish goalkeeper, you grew up watching him."

But the 29-year-old Ousted is carving out his own story and style in Vancouver, far from where the fiery Schmeichel patrolled the pitches in Europe.

"He doesn't play like (Schmeichel) and doesn't have his personality," Whitecaps goalkeeper coach Marius Rovde with a chuckle. "So he has nothing that's like him except for his (blonde) hair.

"Maybe he's crazy in different ways."

Ousted joined the Whitecaps in June 2013 on a free transfer from Denmark's Randers FC and hasn't looked back, shooting up the depth chart last season once he arrived to grab the starter's role ahead of Brad Knighton and the aging Joe Cannon -- neither of whom are still with the club.

He has helped Vancouver (1-0-2) to an undefeated start to the 2014 campaign, including his first clean sheet of the season last weekend in a 0-0 road draw against the New England Revolution.

"David, since the time he's been here, has been very professional," said Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit. "His drive and his comfort level has always been here and always been high, but I think he's just getting used to playing with his defenders, he's getting used to playing in this league and I think he's getting better and better.

"You want him to keep us in it and make big saves when called upon. He's definitely done that for us this season."

It wasn't exactly a smooth transition early on, however.

Ousted started his Major League Soccer career with 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers last August before following that up a week later with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

What followed was a couple of shaky outings that had some questioning if he was the right fit in Vancouver.

Rovde pushed hard for the club to sign the six-foot-four 195-pound goalkeeper and wasn't put off by a 0-3-2 string that included eight goals against.

"You're coming to a new league and sometimes in this league, things happen that don't in other leagues -- defenders make mistakes or they don't pressure as hard," said Rovde. "You suddenly get free shots from 18, 20 yards that you're not used to.

"If you're going to play well in this league, you're going to have to expect the unexpected as a goalkeeper."

There was no doubt in Rovde's mind that Ousted was Vancouver's goalkeeper of the present and future.

"I expected him to go straight in and be a starter because he has played bigger games than you can play in MLS," said Rovde. "He has played against FC Copenhagen, had clean sheets against them in front of 40,000 fans. He has played those big games. There wasn't any reason to wait."

Ousted -- who now has five clean sheets in 16 career starts with Vancouver -- said it took some time to get adjusted not only to a new league, but a new continent.

"I definitely feel more acclimatized. I'm settled here now. I know the league a little bit better," said Ousted, who stayed behind in Vancouver for extra off-season work after the Whitecaps missed the playoffs in 2013. "Both the style of play and the players here are a little bit different. You have to get used to it, get used to the whole thing with the travel and the different venues.

"Maybe it took a little while longer for me than I thought it would but I feel like I'm getting used to it now and hopefully I can continue playing well."

The Whitecaps have had no complaints about his play so far in 2014. Ousted made a big save early in the club's season-opening 4-1 home win over the New York Red Bulls and was responsible for saving points the last two weekends on the road -- a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA and that scoreless final in New England.

"Even last year when there was one or two little criticisms against him for goals going in, David has remained a top 'keeper," said rookie Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "His work ethic is fantastic. He's a great guy off the field. Yes he has saved us a point or two now in the last couple of games, but he's the same 'keeper as he was against New York and he's the same 'keeper today."

Working with Ousted from the centre of defence, DeMerit has noticed more of a take-charge attitude so far in the young season, which continues Saturday at home against the Houston Dynamo (2-0-0).

"I think he'll continue to be a leader back there for us because he needs to be," said DeMerit. "Down the spine of our team, that's where the leadership needs to come from."

Added Ousted: "It's a big part of my game and something that I'm trying to develop even more -- being the guy they can rely on and the guy who's taking responsibility.

"I was glad that the club put their confidence in me and I still am. I'm still working hard to try and repay that confidence."