March 30, 2007 Toronto FC story on goalie Greg Sutton (from Globe and Mail)

Goalkeeper's strategy: delay as long as possible
LARRY MILLSON
Globe and Mail Update

CHARLESTON, S.C. Greg Sutton believes in taking his time when he is preparing to try to stop a penalty kick. The 6-foot-6 goalkeeper is anything but slow when he springs into action to make the stop, as he did on Wednesday to preserve Toronto FC's 2-1 exhibition victory over the New York Red Bulls.

The feeling is that the pressure is more on the shooter than the stopper. Players are expected to make kicks from the penalty spot, a goaltender who does stop one is considered a hero and it is often a big play in a game.

"The pressure is more on the shooter," Sutton said.

And this is why he takes his time before taking his position to try to stop the penalty.

"I'll make the shooter think about it," he said. "I'll wait really until the official tells me to get to the line. I'll wait as long as I can and let him think about what he's going to do."

Sutton, who was born in Hamilton and grew up in Connecticut, made some other important saves in Toronto FC's first victory over another team from Major League Soccer. It was the team's second game in the Carolina Challenge Cup at the Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island.

Sutton said his biggest stop on a penalty came a few years ago when he was with the Montreal Impact in the United Soccer League. His stop that time came in the playoffs and allowed the Impact to continue.

There is some homework that goes into trying to stop a penalty. "He must consider who is taking the shot," he said, "whether he's a skill player or whether he's a player who just likes to hit the ball hard."

There are times when the shooter tries to pick a corner and other times when he will try to hammer the ball hard anywhere.

"It really is the way the game has gone, the way you're feeling," he said. "It's kind of a decision you don't make right up until the last second. Certain times, you maybe have a premonition of where you think it's going to go, but I really don't make that decision until I stand up and get ready."

The past also can help predict the future. "We watch the video and sometimes we know certain tendencies of guys, where the majority of time they might shoot the ball," Sutton said. "But obviously, they can change their mind at any time. You've just got to hope for the best."

Sutton's stop on Wednesday came against New York's Dave van den Bergh, who sent a shot toward the inside of the goal post to Sutton's left. Sutton made the stop and gathered in the rebound.

Sutton, 29, who made his debut for Canada's national team slightly more than three years ago, is returning to MLS after playing for the Impact since 2001. His first MLS stint was with the Chicago Fire two years before that.

With Chicago, he played against Toronto coach Mo Johnston, who was with the Kansas City Wizards in the final stages of his career.

Sutton likes the way Toronto FC is shaping up. "There are a lot of quality players and a lot of veteran players," he said. "I don't think we consider this as a start-up franchise."

He is also impressed with how the team has already been supported, with season tickets being cut off at 14,000 for a new stadium that seats 20,000.

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