Timbers' Gleeson receives first international cap with New Zealand in 3-0 loss
Don’t blame Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson for wanting a couple days of restful sleep following his return from international duty with the New Zealand Men’s National Team.
Gleeson earned his first international cap for the All-Whites after coming on as a 77th-minute substitute in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to rival Australia at the Adelaide Oval, making a solid showing before conceding a penalty kick goal in stoppage time to James Troisi in the 93rd minute.
“I managed to get a ball in my hands early. It was good to be out there, I felt comfortable,” Gleeson said. “The game had changed a lot (Australia led 2-0) and it was quite open. It was just fantastic to be out there and getting a taste of international football. It’s just like (playing in) MLS, you get a little taste and you just want more. It has definitely inspired me to push myself that much more to get out there and play as soon as I can.”
The whirlwind trip started earlier in the week with a Wednesday match in Denver against a high-powered Mexico side gearing up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. New Zealand was overwhelmed by Mexico’s dominant possession and attacking skill on the way to suffering a 3-0 loss. Gleeson thought the possibility of playing time would come against Mexico, but the 20-year-old was an unused sub for the match.
“If any game I was going to get into it would’ve been the Mexico game because there’s always so much on the line for the Australia game,” he said. “I didn’t actually think I was going to get on in the Australia game.”
Accustomed to rowdy crowds at home in the Rose City, Gleeson got his first taste of the fantastic support the Mexican National Team receives in the U.S.
“We showed up at the stadium (in Denver) and it was just mayhem. There’s 50,000-plus people there, there was a soccer tournament going on outside, and our bus showed up and there were thousands of people around,” Gleeson said. “It was definitely something different — in Portland we get fans and we get 20,000, but there were 50,000 Mexicans at this game.
“The way that Mexico moved the ball, the speed of the game, the pace, the noise, the atmosphere, the pressure was all a bit overwhelming to be honest,” he continued.
Gleeson also got a chance to study Mexico’s starting goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa during the game. Ochoa plays his club soccer for Mexico’s Club America, which visit JELD-WEN Field for an international exhibition on July 7.
“His shot-stopping ability is ridiculous,” Gleeson said of Ochoa. “It was good to watch him play as well. He’s so calm and good with his feet.”
After a quick workout on Thursday, the All-Whites started the approximately 30-hour trip from Denver to Adelaide — arriving about 24 hours ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the Socceroos.
“We arrived Saturday afternoon and had to play Sunday afternoon,” Gleeson said. “It was tough on the body, tough physically, tough mentally. The boys were definitely feeling it.”
After starting goalkeeper Glen Moss conceded two goals, Gleeson entered the rain-soaked game in the 77th minute with his family watching from the stands. He quickly got his legs under him and played solidly despite letting in a penalty kick late in stoppage time.
“To be 20 and to be out there on the field representing your country especially as a goalkeeper was a pretty special moment,” Gleeson said. “It was just a great moment, it’s something as a kid playing football you grow up and watch these guys play and you dream about being on that field with them. Hopefully it’s just the beginning.”