Age at MLS Cup: 31
Hometown: Nijmegen, Netherlands
2020 IN ALL COMPETITIONS
Goals Against Avg: 0.90
Eloy Room first appeared on Crew fans’ radar during his string of heroic performances in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup with Curacao. He seemed like an exciting candidate to fill the void left by Zack Steffen’s transfer to Premier League side Manchester City. On July 5, 2019, Room indeed signed with the Crew. He went 5-2-5 with a 1.17 GAA down the stretch, but it was just a tune-up to a masterful 2020 that saw him win MLS Save of the Year en route to being an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year finalist. And then he capped the whole thing off with a shutout in MLS Cup that featured a save so breathtaking he didn’t officially get credit for it because everyone just assumed it hit the post because he couldn’t possibly have saved it. I don’t think anyone in Crewville imagined Zack Steffen and his legendary playoff heroics could ever be replaced at a comparably effective level. Eloy Room will soon have a championship ring to prove that, somehow, it could be done.
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“Oh man, Eloy. You feel Eloy, if that makes sense. He’s got a presence about him. He’s got these long arms and he’s a big guy. And when I say you can feel him, it’s not only his physical presence, but there is also a quiet confidence about him. To me, that comes out in the way he plays. He’s good with his feet and he’s never someone who’s going to hurt you with his decisions. And then to have all that paired up with his incredible shot-stopping, I mean, that’s the ideal person to have playing behind you. He’s going to make the easy saves and the hard saves and then once or twice a game he’s going to make a save that puts you in a position to steal a tie on the road or a win at home. He’s always making those kinds of plays. I mean, what else is there to say about a goalie who was a big reason we won the championship? The reason we had the season we did is because you need someone back there who is a stalwart and is going to win you games at times.
“I know we didn’t win the game in Orlando, but the save he made down there that won Save of the Year, it might have been the greatest save I’ve ever seen in person. He makes a ridiculous save, and then lays down and takes a nap on the field, and then he gets up and makes another ridiculous save on the same play. It’s like, Save of the Year, quick nap, another great save, then organize.”
“I remember looking around. The first save happened and we were all grabbing each other like ‘oh my god’ and then the ball goes way up in the air and I see him on the ground and then you start to see players realize the ball is not going out, so then he jumps up like a cat again and makes another save in traffic. I remember all of us were just losing our minds on the bench. So just to have the confidence. People like Jona and Eloy just have the physical capabilities and the confidence is contagious. You want to play a little more on your front foot. You want to take a little more risk. You can play more aggressively because there is a guy behind you that is either helping you out or telling you, just by his level of play and his communication, that he’s confident in your ability as well. So to me, it goes hand in hand. Having someone like that behind you can elevate your game.
“I don’t think I had ever heard of Eloy before the 2019 Gold Cup. I remember we were linked to him, so once that happened, I watched them a little bit. Curacao wasn’t the most talented team, but you could tell they had so much confidence in their ability for such a small team. They played some good soccer at times and I remember Eloy making some ridiculous saves in that tournament, so you knew the shot-stopping ability was there. I remember thinking that, wow, this guy has something for sure.”
“And then had to come in (to Columbus) and fill in for Zack. I mean, Zack was Superman! And for him to sign with Manchester City and then go over on loan to Germany, you almost didn’t think you could fill those shoes. And then Eloy comes in and I don’t even know if he felt the pressure. It just felt like he was so confident in his abilities from day one. You just knew this was a guy that was capable of stepping in and playing at an incredible level. In a way, he’s like an older Zack Steffen. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. He’s not as young as Zack, but god can he make some ridiculous saves. That one in MLS Cup where he swatted it like Shaq, I mean, just get outta here, man.”
“I didn’t know he was athletic as he is. He’s way springier than I thought he would be. He’s able to get to these balls and make it look easy. That’s a key quality in a goalie. Obviously you’re not looking to sign somebody just based on how they make saves look, but if you can make a lot of these saves seem fairly routine, then I think it’s saying something for you. A lot of the saves he’s making aren’t routine, but he’s not yelling at the defenders for letting the shot get off. He just makes the save, organizes a little bit, and then he’s right back at it. I have so much respect for him. He’s a quiet leader. He’s not somebody who is boastful or anything like that, even though he could be because the guy’s a baller, but he just goes about his business.
“He’s a great locker room guy as well. Always positive. Just one of those quiet assassins. He’s not a guy who speaks up a lot, but when he needs to speak up, he always has the right thing to say. He’s not a rah-rah guy. His words are always very clear and concise. You’re not going to get too much out of him. He’s never too high or too low. Always steady, and I think that comes out in his play. There’s a reason why he is so consistent. His emotions never run wild.
“To give an example of clear and concise, say we’re building out. Just the way he would speak about building out. With certain guys, you like to go over all the different ways of figuring out a press or anything like that. With him, it never had to get too detailed. It was, ‘Look, if you’re open, I’ll pass it to you. If you aren’t, I’m just gonna kick it long.’ It’s one of those things where that’s all he’d say and I’d go, ‘Okay, that makes sense. Yeah, let’s just do that.’ It’s always one of those things where you don’t need to get too detailed. My brain is always going, ‘If this guy presses, do we need Aidan or Darlington to pop down…’ and he just goes, ‘If it’s open, I’ll play it. If it’s not, I’ll kick it long.’ Yep, that sounds good. Let’s just work with that. I can’t even think of a play where he ever forced it. If it’s on, he always saw it and played it. And if it wasn’t on, he’d just send it up to G and you get your butt up the field to move the line up. That was pretty much it.”
[NOTE: To see a clickable list of earlier installments of this Josh Williams series or other MLS Cup related posts, please click HERE.]
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