FRISCO, Texas -- With Dario Sala and fellow veteran Kevin Hartman battling for the starting spot in goal, up-and-comer Josh Lambo likely going out on loan to a USL side, an opportunity still exists for FC Dallas trialist 'keeper Sean Kelley. The former George Mason standout could land a spot as FCD's third 'keeper, whether it's on the actual roster or could stick as a practice 'keeper.
The 21-year-old Kelley is a native of Lexington, Kentucky who spent his last four years at GMU. As a senior, he earned first-team All-CAA honors by going 10-7-1 with a 1.00 goals-against-average and keeping five clean sheets. He didn't attend the MLS Scouting Combine in January but attended combines with DC United and Seattle before going undrafted.
However, at the end of January, he got a call that was highly unexpected.
"I was in class and got a call. It was (FCD goalkeeping coach) Drew Keeshan," Kelley said. "It was a pretty big surprise because it was pretty late in the game. Then my coach called me right after that. I knew something was up because my coach never calls me. I figured it out. I just wanted to run out of class and head on over here. It was a pretty exciting time."
So far in preseason, Kelley has appeared in four games with FCD. His last action came in a 1-0 loss to Florida International in Orlando on February 21. In that loss, he played the final half and allowed the game's only goal, the only tally he has surrendered in his short time there. He is now with FCD for a six-day trip to Tampa, where they will play a pair of games, including one against league expansion side Philadelphia on March 14.
Hyndman clearly likes what he sees from his newest 'keeper.
"I think Sean has all the physical size. I think he's 6-3 or 6-4," the FCD coach said last week. "He's got a good weight to him. He doesn't carry any body fat. He's got a great range. I think he does a very good job on shot stopping. He's got a great range in the air like you would imagine. Distribution, I think is an area he can continue to work on. I think the other area he would need to continue improving on is consistency."
However, the FCD coach remains undecided about whether or not he will opt to carry three 'keepers and retain Kelley heading into the March 27 season opener with Houston.
"He's a great young man with great upside but what he also needs is more and more playing time. There are a lot of things in there I like and he's a wonderful person," Hyndman said. "We've really enjoyed his character and his personality. However this turns out for him, I think this will really be a nice memory for him."
Kelley is savoring the entire experience.
"It's gone pretty well so far. I'm still here," he said. "I came in as a trialist and wasn't really expected to even get this opportunity. I'm just thankful for the opportunity really. It's a good group of guys to be with and a good coaching staff. I've enjoyed it so far."
And considering just a few months ago, he was between the posts for GMU, the adjustment to MLS hasn't been terribly drastic.
"It wasn't really anything unexpected, the speed of play is a lot quicker and the decision making has to be faster as well," Kelley said. "As a goalkeeper, all the shots are coming in really hard. You get some hard shots in college, but (here) all the shots are really difficult to handle. It's about what I expected but it's still an adjustment. It doesn't happen overnight."
One big highlight for the Kentucky native has been getting to work closely with Sala.
"He's been great really. He's a really nice guy and a good guy to train with," Kelley said. "He has his own style. He's from Argentina, so his style is a little bit different than Drew (Keeshan), the goalkeeping coach. It's good to get both sides of things. He's been a good guy to train with and someone to look up to on the field too."
When asked about his chances to make the FCD roster, he remains optimistic.
"I'd like to say pretty good. I feel like I've had about as good a showing here as I could have," Kelley said last Friday. "I am happy with how I play but it's kind of out of my hands at this time. So, hopefully things will work out. If not, I'm still thankful for the opportunity just to get here."
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com.