Prior to the start of the season, Todd Beamer boys soccer coach Joel Lindberg was asked if he was concerned about the youth of his goalkeepers.
“We’ll see,” he said. “They’re going to battle for that spot, that’s for sure.”
Lindberg wasn’t joking.
Through the first two games of the season, Titans sophomore goalkeepers Brandon Locke and Rich Bezus have split both games, Locke as the No. 1 keeper in the first half, and Bezus minding the net in the second half. Lindberg’s keeper-by-committee approach has yielded two wins for Beamer, the most recent being a 3-2 win over the Federal Way Eagles on March 17 at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.
“We’re still looking at both of them, and they’re both doing a great job.” Lindberg said. “Brandon’s a little better in the air, but Rich covers a lot of ground and has great energy.”
Lindberg used the word “battle” when talking about the Beamer (2-0-0) goalkeeper position, but the two keepers said it doesn’t feel like a fight at all.
Both Locke and Bezus are enjoying and embracing the opportunity to be named the Titans’ full-time No. 1 goalkeeper, and they’re doing it while remaining best friends.
The two are always together. If they’re at school, the two are talking about the game every chance they get, whether it is at lunch or between class periods.
When the two are together away from the pitch, away from training, the Titan keepers still crave to stay active, whether in a game of one-on-one basketball or soccer.
While recreational sports makes for a sense of competition, Locke insists they are rare opportunities for the two to cheer on and encourage the other.
“We’re just best friends,” Locke said. “When we’re not on the field, we push one another. In the classroom, we stick together, push each other. Outside of school and soccer, we just have a lot of fun and still push each other to be better.”
Locke and Bezus are basically kindred spirits — same interests, same position on the pitch.
When it comes to game days in 2017, however, the duo knows it has to turn the friendship “switch” off for at least 80 minutes.
In the Titans’ win over Federal Way, Locke was impressive through his 40 minutes of work. He faced four shots on target and was nearly perfect, but the Eagles (0-2-1) scored in the 28th minute when Oscar Guzman slotted a through ball into the box, and Federal Way striker Alexiz Alvarez slid the ball past Locke. The goal cut Beamer’s lead to 2-1 at halftime.
Bezus had the exact same line. He faced four shots on target, and the one that got away from him was an unassisted one-time shot from Zane Baumgardt from just outside the box in the 65th minute.
“We didn’t know how good they’d be, but they showed it,” Locke said of Federal Way.
The effort from both Locke and Bezus didn’t make Lindberg’s job any easier.
While Lindberg didn’t see anything technically from either Locke or Bezus to sway his preference for a permanent No. 1 starter, he saw a far greater quality from both.
“They’re both great leaders on the field,” Lindberg said. “They’ve gotten better from game to game on that, and that’s something you can’t teach.”
Chemistry can’t be taught either, and Locke and Bezus might have a greater sense of that than anyone else on the team.
During training, the two aren’t battling against each other, but they’re still pushing each other. One gives the other a compliment after an impressive save or offers words of encouragement when one goes off his line and allows a counter-attack goal.
The two keepers know Lindberg is still looking for one goalkeeper to rise above the other, and both are training their hardest, but not to the point their friendship is compromised.
“We grind and we’re working our hardest, and we know it’s a hard decision for coach,” Locke said. “We work each other’s butt off as hard as we can. We push each other to the limits so it’s not so easy for him.”