Thursday, January 13, 2011
There has been perhaps no bigger win in the history of French Ligue 2 club Evian than Sunday's victory over Olympique Marseille in the Coupe de France which starred American goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
Since joining the club this fall, Westberg has seen the bulk of his playing time come in cup matches. But with giants Marseille coming to town, many suspected that Evian coach Bernard Casoni would opt for first team 'keeper Bertrand Laquait over Westberg.
Instead, Casoni stuck with the former US Under-20 man who delivered a big-time performance along with the rest of his teammates in a match that will go down in Evian lore.
"It was nice to have coach confirm that I was going to play a few days before the match," Westberg recently told YA. "Casoni won the Champions League with Marseille so I know he wanted to win this match badly. This was an important match both for me and the club. The stadium was sold out for the first time so there was a lot of enthusiasm around the game with media and people coming to our practices. It was a good opportunity for us to compare ourselves to such a high-level opponent."
Evian were unfazed at the sight of the 10-time cup winners as they struck for two early goals in the first 15 minutes.
However, lost in the storyline was a save Westberg made in just the second minute that could have unnerved the lower league squad.
Many times a goalkeeper prefers to make an early save in order to acclimate to a match, but in the case of Westberg, he insists that the early save made no difference in his performance on Sunday evening.
"It's said a lot that it's always good for a goalkeeper to get involved but really, I'm cool when it comes to playing," he explained. "I don't panic when I get into games. It's only pleasure for me to play teams like Marseille. It was great to be on the field especially since it was a primetime game televised nationally."
Evian next face third division Strasbourg in the Coupe de France on January 23rd giving Westberg and company a realistic shot at making a deep run in the tournament.
Their cup success has paralleled the performance in their league campaign as they currently sit in first place in Ligue 2.
This bright future is one of the reasons why Westberg boasts that he is glad to be at the club and feels like the next several years could be prosperous both for himself and Evian.
"It was a difficult summer and I was waiting on the best opportunity," said the former Troyes man. "It's nice to be part of things here. This is a club that is going up and has financial support. I'm just establishing myself here and getting to know more people so moving forward I'm hoping to get more games.
"My contract runs through the end of the year. The starter [Laquait] is 34 years old so hopefully the plan is for me to ultimately take his place so extending my contract would be nice."
As for the race to promotion to Ligue 1, Westberg contends that the key to achieving that goal will be the upcoming winter months where foul weather can often lead to unsatisfactory results.
"It's hard to get promoted," he continued. "Every game is a battle since all the other teams are aiming for you. You have to be strong and have depth in your squad. It's a tight league right now and a long season but I think the winter period will be crucial. Fortunately we have a good team chemistry which always helps."
While the victory over Marseille ranks as one of Westberg's career highlights, the 24 year old netminder received the gift of a lifetime back during the summer with the birth of his son Oyamo.
Becoming a father has added perspective to Westberg's life and when he's not at training sessions, he dutifully spends time with Oyamo who already has a baby-sized Evian jersey.
"I have some free time during the day so I get to spend a lot of time with my son," concluded Westberg. "It's nice I get to do that. He's now five months old and sleeps great. My wife and I are really lucky. He started sleeping through the night when he was just a month and a half old so no more 1am or 4am feedings. It certainly makes training and playing a lot easier!"