Almodovar: GW’s last line of defense

Alejandro Almodovar is a formidable force in the net as he leaps, tumbles and dives to stop the shots whizzing toward him.

It’s an impressive display for a player whose transition to the position was an accident, and one he wasn’t keen on at first.

“I was about 10 years old and on an all-star team for this recreational team. They needed a goalie so I just hopped in,” Almodovar said. “At first I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t score any goals anymore,’ and I definitely miss that aspect. I came to love it though. I love the pressure being the last line of defense.”

Hopping in for a team lacking a presence in the net is now a theme for Almovodar. Last season, injuries to both of the Colonials’ goalkeepers forced defenseman Jake Davis, then a junior, to step up for the team and defend the net as a goalkeeper in six games for the Colonials. Playing without its regular keepers between the posts, GW won only once in the first six matches.

As the Colonials opened the 2011 season poised to improve on their previous campaign, junior goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty was sidelined by injury after only the second game of the season. Almodovar, a spring transfer student from American, was waiting on the sideline for an opportunity to play. Head coach George Lidster designated Almodovar as starting goalkeeper for the Colonials’ match against Coastal Carolina, a team that qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2010. Despite losing 2-0 against the Chanticleers, Almodovar tallied three saves in his debut start for GW.

“I was ready as soon as they called me up,” Almodovar said. “I said ‘I’m ready coach,’ and I played pretty well.”

Almodovar’s been ready to play for the Colonials since he transferred to GW from American last season, spurred by fellow junior and close friend Zach Abaie, a fellow former Eagle who now dons a GW uniform. Almodovar liked American, but never felt wholly comfortable there, an experience echoed by Abaie, who convinced his former teammate to join him at GW.

To play for the Colonials, Almodovar needed to be released by American, and was initially worried about requesting to transfer to an opposing team on the schedule. But he was given the go-ahead, making the switch to Foggy Bottom.

“The transition was pretty easy, but the paperwork was a hassle,” Almodovar laughed.

A defining moment for Almodovar and the Colonials came on Sept. 11. GW earned its first win of the season when the Colonials defeated USC Upstate 1-0. The stingy GW defense held Upstate to just three shots over the entire match in the scorching South Carolina heat, carrying their momentum into its match Sept. 17 against Bryant, winning 3-2 and posting its second straight victory with Almodovar between the posts.

His record of play is supported by an intense drive outside of competition. Almodovar is one of the first to arrive at the field and usually the last to leave. If a teammate has a disappointing game, Almodovar often sends a few words of encouragement their way. Head coach George Lidster said he is impressed with his goalkeepers’ leadership qualities, underlining the importance of Almodovar’s communication and command of his teammates.

“When you are willing to work so hard, it is really quite easy for an athlete to fit in with his peers,” Lidster said. “Both [Almodovar and Lafferty] have become so much more vocal, and I’m very pleased with their leadership. They command the defense and give them instructions, as well as provide encouragement for the defenders.”

As Lafferty, the number one goalkeeper, works to return from injury, Lidster expects both players to vie for the starting position, pushing each other to become better. The scenario playing out is in stark contrast to a season ago, when the Colonials were without a healthy keeper. Now, Lidster said, he has two players training hard, each gunning for the number one spot.

It’s the sort of scenario Lidster wants to see all season, confident that competing for the same spot on the roster will inherently make each player a stronger performer.

“The players all have confidence in him and he’s in a great position now, he deserves to be playing,” Lidster said. “He works exceptionally hard in training.”

Almodovar said his love for the sports pushes him. The feeling he gets when he steps onto the field, the rush of stopping the ball before it hits the back of the net, that’s his motivation.

“Soccer is something that when I play I just get this passion for it, I love it so much,” Almodovar said. “Making a big save for your team and having your teammates come up to you and say, ‘great save’ is one of the greatest feelings I could have. I just love the sport.”

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