Age at MLS Cup: 27
Hometown: Mandeville, LA
2020 IN ALL COMPETITIONS
Goals Against Avg: 0.73
It’s not often that a backup goalkeeper has a such a crucial on-field role for a championship team, but Andrew Tarbell rose to the occasion. When Eloy Room missed time during the season with an injury, Tarbell kept the Crew’s defense stout. And when Room had to miss two winner-take-all playoff matches, Tarbell saved all eight shots he faced and posted back-to-back shutouts in the Eastern Conference semifinals and final. Then he was the consummate teammate when Eloy Room returned to health and reclaimed his starting spot for MLS Cup itself. Josh has spoken about how the Crew were blessed in their goalkeeping quartet and how he and his teammates felt confident in any of the goalkeepers on their roster. Tarbell was the goalkeeper who put that faith to the test and then rewarded it. He has since signed with Austin FC where perhaps he will get a chance to claim the number one spot based on his stellar performances with the Black & Gold.
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“The first thing we need to get out of the way with Tarbell is that I always call him the perfect dog dad. I call him ‘dog dad’ all the time because he dresses like a dad. His wife always tells us to take him shopping and to buy him trendy clothes and trendy shoes. Here’s a hilarious story about Tarbell. This is kind of where the nickname came from. Hector, Chris Cadden, Tarbell, and myself all went golfing. All of us just happened to show up wearing new shoes. You’re feeling kind of good in new shoes and Tarbell’s got on these basic gray New Balance shoes that he’s so stoked about. Hector’s got new Nikes and I’ve got new adidas and Cadden’s got some new adidas too, and then Tarbell’s got some run of the mill New Balances on. He said his wife was making fun of him too. He gets out there and we just started laughing. It was like, ‘Tarbell, man, what are those?’ He’s like, ‘What, these? They’re my new shoes. They were like 20 bucks!’ And we just started dying. It was just so typical. And he had this hat on that was tan and it was like the hat in The Sandlot where the bill’s too big. We were all just like, ‘What is this guy wearing, man?’ The thing is, he doesn’t care about stuff like that. He doesn’t place any emphasis on it, and that’s why we love him so much. He’s just there to have a good time. He’s always in a good mood. Just an incredible guy.
“At first, he was pretty shy around us, but then I think he realized our banter wasn’t going to stop so it was either get on board or he was going to get killed. Here’s another thing. His nickname is Tarbs, but he didn’t say much at first so we didn’t even know he had a nickname. We just called him Andrew. Then one day he says, ‘It’s kinda weird that you guys don’t call me Tarbs.’ It was like, ‘WHAT?!?’ But then the joke became I would call him Tarbs and then say, ‘Nah, it doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t feel right. Andy. I think I’m going to go with Andy.’ But he’s one of those guys where once he came out of his shell, he’s hilarious and we all love him. He fit right into our group and was an incredible teammate. Just a great guy on and off the field.
“And he’s an absolute baller of a goalie. Being behind Eloy, he didn’t always get to show the public what he could do, but guys at training knew he was always flying around and is an incredible shot-stopper and is good with his feet. I think Austin got themselves a really good goalie, so it sucks to see him leave, not only as a goalie but as a friend and teammate. He’s one of my good friends here.
“Like I told you before, I just refer to our goalies as ‘gloves’ because it’s like they’re playing a different sport. When we’re doing a possession drill, I always make fun of them. All of our goalies are good with their feet, but any time they step in, I give them a hard time anyway. The gloves come over and I just bash them the whole time. But being a goalie might be the hardest position to step into like Tarbs had to do. I especially remember the Dallas game where he had to come into the second half of a tie game. You don’t even get a chance to really warm up. But that’s such a hard position to come into because it’s so instinctual. I feel like you don’t get to really get in the flow of the game. Depending on the game, you might be standing back there for several minutes at a time without ever seeing the ball. So it’s a very unique situation to come into a game or to start a game on short notice. The way he handled it this year, especially when you find out at 10:30 or 11:00 the night before a playoff game that Eloy has COVID and can’t play and now you’re the starter. I remember he said he slept about an hour and a half that night before the Nashville game. He got a late call and then he’s up and he’s cleaning his gloves. So it was very impressive to see him perform in a unique situation. The way he handled it was so impressive. He was locked in. I’m someone who needs the goalie behind me to feel confident. I’d talked about that with him in the past. I said when you get games, just be confident, because we can feel that. We can feel when he comes out for a ball or doesn’t come out for a ball, or if he’s shaky on crosses or shot-stopping. But he stepped in and right away we could feel his presence. You could feel the confidence seeping out of him. To me, that’s so crucial in those big games. So for him to step in like that and fill that role, it was a huge part of why we were able to accomplish what we did. Hats off to him. It was an incredibly professional performance. I hope all this leads to his confidence rising and staying there because I think he is a number one in this league. When he gets to Austin, I think he can possibly take that over.
“Even for MLS Cup, I don’t think it would have been that crazy of an idea to start him. But the good thing about Tarbell, and I think this goes back to the kind of guy that he is, is that he understood Eloy earned the right to be the number one and had been the number one all year. So when Eloy was available, Andrew understood and didn’t make a big deal out of it. Was he disappointed? I’m sure he was. Especially because he earned the right to be in that conversation based on those playoff games. But he was okay with Eloy. It’s just part of being a good teammate. It’s part of team sports. There are just certain things that are understood. I think when a guy is the number one option and he goes down with an injury, or in this case COVID which is even shorter than an injury, but when he comes back, unless it’s been a long stretch of games, he’s earned the right to have that spot back. And I think Tarbell understood that. And that was a huge deal because it could have caused a rift between him and Eloy and maybe Caleb gets involved and maybe Eloy’s pissed off and then all that seeps into the team. So to have that transition, I think that was a crucial moment heading into MLS Cup that shouldn’t be overlooked. The way Andrew dealt with that and the professionalism behind that, it all speaks volumes about him. That could have been a much bigger situation than it ultimately was because his playoff performances absolutely put him in the conversation to start MLS Cup.”
[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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