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Pickens departure for England opens door for Cronin
by Ridge Mahoney, January 8th, 2008 7AM

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[U.S. NATIONAL TEAM CAMP] Apparently, Fire keeper Matt Pickens wasn't kidding a few months back when he hinted at trying his luck overseas. Instead of training with the U.S. national team at Home Depot Center, he's on trial with Norwich City, a former English Premier League club now playing in the League Championship.

The Canaries are in 20th place, just above the relegation zone (the bottom four teams go down to Division One in the 24-team division) and are selling keeper Joe Lewis to Peterborough United, although Lewis has not been the starter and returned last month after playing on loan.

Goalkeeping coach Jim Hollman recently left the club, so there are changes afoot in the Norwich nets.

Pickens left the U.S. camp with permission from Coach Bob Bradley. Since he's out of contract with MLS, the Fire could not prevent him from going on trial, and since he has not played for the USA, he would need to either qualify for an EU passport or earn a work permit on appeal to play in England.

Pickens trained with the U.S. team at this time last year for friendlies against Denmark and Mexico but didn't make the game-day rosters.

Bradley named Steve Cronin, the backup to Galaxy keeper Joe Cannon, to replace Pickens. Cannon served as the backup to, respectively, Matt Reis and Tim Howard for the Denmark and Mexico friendlies last year.

Cannon might have been named for this camp himself, but he underwent sports hernia surgery in December. He should be ready to go when the Galaxy opens its preseason camp later this month.

The other keepers in U.S. camp are Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Will Hesmer (Columbus Crew) and Zach Wells (D.C. United). The USA faces Sweden in a friendly Jan. 19 at the Home Depot Center.

Pickens, 25, won the Fire starting job in 2006 and last year compiled a 1.20 goals-allowed average while posting a 9-8-10 record in 27 matches.
Chicago selected him in the 2004 SuperDraft as the 19th overall pick and rather than negotiate a new deal he elected to let his contract expire.



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