QUINCY, Mass. – Victory keeper Jason Katz wasn’t sure he was going to get the start on Wednesday.
With starting keeper Vinny Papageorgiou out due to red card suspension, Katz, who hadn’t seen a minute of action this season, knew there was a chance. A chance, but no guarantee.
On Tuesday, he got the guarantee. On Wednesday, he got his first shutout in a 1-0 win at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“That’s the life of a soccer player,” Victory head coach Sergio Taborda said after Wednesday’s game. “You get the opportunity. And when you get the opportunity, you have to make it happen. And he did.”
Debuting against the same Hydra squad that scored a half-dozen goals against Boston in Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing, the challenge was daunting, to say the least.
With the Hydra hoping to resume the same fierce attack, Hydra menaced the Victory back line early in the match. But each time, Katz kept his back four in order and, when necessary, came off his line to grab a dangerous ball.
“They were not happy, especially after coming off their 6-0 win,” Katz said. “They maybe came out a little flat expecting just an easy win.”
Any ideas of another Hydra win over the Victory were dealt a blow in the 23rd minute. Keegan Campbell collected a Ruben Resendes corner before sending it wide to Manuel Veiga, who volleyed it through traffic before it found the back of the net.
“I was open when Keegan had the ball,” Veiga said. “So he kicked it to me. I saw the ball, and scored.”
After Veiga gave the hosts the lead, it would take a strong performance from Katz to preserve the one-goal margin.
In the second half, Katz would be called upon often. And each time, he proved why Taborda elected to go with the 19-year-old keeper rather than bring in an unknown off the street.
In the 59th minute, Matthew Candido stole an errant back pass and crashed the area before firing a shot that Katz lept to collect. So far, so good.
Katz was tested again twenty minutes later. With the Hydra pressing harder as the game apprached its conclusion Katz punched away a Jeff McDonald shot that nearly snuck under the bar in the 79th minute.
Poised to prove himself in front of the home crowd, Katz rose to the occasion again in the 83rd minute when he corraled a dangerous Matheus Candido shot.
“He’s fearless,” Taborda said. “He’s committed and he doesn’t shy away from danger.”
Katz was called upon one last time in the 88th minute. From another giveaway inside the Boston end, defender Ambry Moss fired a shot clear on frame that Katz pulled down in front of his net.
“I’m very happy with his performance,” Taborda said. “He’s young and the potential is there. With time, I can work with him and make him a really good keeper.”
Even with only one game left on the Victory’s schedule, Katz believes that the shutout was enough to warrant more playing time next season.
“I just wanted to prove that I was capable of playing in the future,” Katz said. “And I think I did that today.”