Tyler Deric was sure he was going to be cut.
The Homegrown goalkeeper had just finished a trying rookie year in Houston, and was convinced his first season with the Dynamo would be his last as he walked into his 2009 exit interview with then-head coach Dominic Kinnear.
“I thought I was cut. I was walking in and I was a dead man walking,” Deric told MLSsoccer.com. “There was a big learning curve that first year. I made every single mistake possible. Turns out, he kept me around.”
Kinnear, who was replaced by Owen Coyle this past off-season, made the right choice. Deric was fantastic for the Dynamo on Saturday, beginning his first season as a full-time starter with a six-save performance in Houston’s season-opening 1-0 win against Columbus Crew SC.
It’s been a bumpy journey for Deric, now 26. The 21-year-old kid that thought he would be immediately dropped had to learn plenty in order to mature into the player who stood out between the pipes against Crew SC and some are tabbing for future greatness.
The second Homegrown signing in league history, Deric joined Houston in February 2009 after spending two years at the University of North Carolina. He joined a goalkeeping unit that featured veteran Canadian international Pat Onstad – who Deric often annoyed with questions about focus – and future All-Star Tally Hall.
The crowded group meant Deric would sit and wait.
“We’ve had plenty of talks because I’ve been in that situation where you just wait, wait, wait," Dynamo defender Corey Ashe, Deric’s road roommate, said. "I’d tell him, 'When you get the chance, make the most of it,' and that’s what he’s doing. When I met him – that was before he went to North Carolina – I don’t think he realized the talent he had. Now you can tell he’s focused and he wants to get better.”
Deric had to wait for Onstad to move on and for Hall to take a four-year run at the job. It was a long stretch on the bench for the admittedly immature youngster. Almost too much.
There were also questions about his commitment to the game and ability to balance his personal and professional life. Things came to a head in February 2012, when he and a teammate were arrested after an altercation outside a Houston night club. Both players were cleared of all charges and eventually Deric was paid a settlement by the other party in the case.
“It’s just an incident that made me realize what I could lose,” Deric told MLSsoccer.com. “I’d never been put in handcuffs before. I’d never been put in jail. Going through all that was a really a scary process. It put everything in perspective about what’s important in life and what my life would be without soccer. I didn’t want that at all.”
It’s been three years since his arrest, and Deric has matured, progressing enough that Houston felt comfortable handing him the starting job this offseason.
“I think [his arrest] was really a light bulb for him,” Dynamo captain Brad Davis said. "I think that was something that within the staff, within the team, we needed him to focus on his profession. He worked, took it on his shoulders, accepted it and moved past it. It shows that those things can happen but how you handle them shows a big part of who you are as a person. [I] couldn’t be more proud of him the way he handled that situation and has gotten himself on the right track.”
Now he’s the No. 1 'keeper for his hometown club and showing the requisite work ethic and dedication to go along with his unquestioned talent. Deric’s a notorious film junkie; emailing videos of goalkeepers or training sessions to his coaches.
“I’ve [watched film] ever since I was a little kid and YouTube was around,” Deric said. “Even in high school, as a kid, I’d be in computer class and supposed to be doing some work and I’d pull up some goalkeeper’s clips and watch that.”
Now he’s dealing with the attention that comes with being the starter and the goalkeeper kids in Houston will watch for pointers. It’s been an adjustment for Deric, who’s usually quiet in front of the cameras. Before being interviewed for this story, he shrugged off the attention, saying Saturday’s stellar performance “was one game.”
That’s a sign of maturity in itself, even if there’s still a 26-year-old knocking around on the inside.
“Behind closed doors, the best way to describe him is goofy," Ashe said. “He’s a funny kid and he’s always got some story. On the field, it’s more a quiet confidence. He’s a humble guy and he’s gotten his opportunity and made the most of it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.