April 24, 2004
By Brian Forbes
There rarely is silence around Rapids goalie Joe Cannon.
Whether he's between the posts or waiting his turn between practice drills, the two-time Major League Soccer all-star delivers a competitive and comedic monologue that requires no reply.
And that's usually what he gets.
But beneath his Letterman humor is a fiery competitor who won the MLS championship in 2001 with the San Jose Earthquakes and was named goalkeeper of the year in 2002, before being traded to the Rapids last summer after a season as a backup in France with FC Lens.
His current teammates might not always acknowledge Cannon's comments, but you can bet they're listening.
"He gives us real confidence," second-year center back Nat Borchers said. "Every day at practice he's always yelling for us to be first to the ball. It's a pleasure to play with him back there because it makes my job a lot easier."
Saturday's game will be just Cannon's fourth league appearance for the Rapids, who play the defending champion Earthquakes at 7 p.m. at Invesco Field at Mile High.
The Rapids (0-0-2) will be looking for their first victory of the season while trying to extend their league-leading 14-game home unbeaten streak. A positive result against the Earthquakes (1-1-1) would tie the MLS record of 15 games.
Cannon, who went to college at Santa Clara, spent four seasons with the Earthquakes and maintains close contact with former roommate Landon Donovan and midfielder Richard Mulrooney.
Despite the connections, Cannon, 29, says he feels the same as he did preparing for Los Angeles the week before.
"I don't think it's going to get weird until I go back," said Cannon, who lives in Los Altos, Calif. "When (San Jose) comes here, I'm thinking the same thing that I'm thinking when L.A. comes in - let's get three points."
Cannon arrived in Colorado midway through the 2003 season after taking a two-month break. He was unfit and says he underestimated the work required to maintain the level of play that earned him his first cap with the U.S. national team last summer.
"I don't think I respected the game enough when I took the time off and came back," Cannon said. "You forget that formula, and you think maybe you can cut some corners now that you're a veteran."
On top of that, Cannon said he fired off his mouth a little too soon after signing with the Rapids, which went a long way to fuel talk of a goalie controversy.
Cannon and former Rapids goalie Scott Garlick exchanged barbs through the media before Cannon replaced Garlick in Colorado's regular-season finale and assumed the No. 1 shirt through the playoffs.
"I talked to Scotty about it and we both felt it was obviously overblown," Cannon said. "Both of us are pretty sarcastic guys."
Now both seem happier, far away from each other.
Garlick was traded to the Dallas Burn in the offseason and Cannon spent his time getting more familiar with his current teammates and refocusing his training habits. It hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Every single day, in everything he does, he brings a competitive attitude and challenges the players around him," Rapids coach Tim Hankinson said. "He's not picking and choosing when he wants to work or what ball he wants to go after. He just competes at everything."
Cannon has surrendered just one goal this season in open play. He also was beaten on a penalty kick in a 1-1 tie at Dallas.
Against the Earthquakes, the Rapids expect Pablo Mastroeni to return after missing nearly a month with a hip pointer. Mastroeni should combine with Borchers in the center of Colorado's defense with Ritchie Kotschau on the left and Antonio De la Torre on the right.
"I think we're still kind of waiting for (Mastroeni) to kind of shore things up back there," Cannon said. "He just brings a calmness and presence and a voice."
And voice is one thing Cannon knows a lot about.