BAYSHORE GARDENS -- The fog that engulfed IMG Academy's stadium for most of Wednesday afternoon's preseason soccer match between the Columbus Crew and Malmo FF wasn't just a hindrance to the ability to see clearly.
It was symbolic of the battle that has started in the Crew's net.
Playing their first Major League Soccer preseason match in Bradenton, the Crew used two different lineups in their 1-0 victory over reigning Swedish league champions Malmo.
Within those two lineups were two different goalkeepers who are fighting for the starting job once the season commences next month.
On Wednesday, Columbus head
coach Gregg Berhalter said he was impressed with both keepers, Matt Lampson and Steve Clark.
"They were both solid," Berhalter said. "They commanded the box on set pieces, they communicated well, and their distribution was pretty good. It's a comfort-level thing. You want to get used to your defenders, used to communication between the group and ... I think they did pretty well."
Both Lampson and Clark provided fans with some key saves that preserved the clean sheet.
Lampson played the first half and made a diving save off a free kick before corralling a dangerous corner inside the 6-yard box.
"They put four or five big guys in the 6-yard box that I had to battle with for the ball, and I came out on top of that," Lampson said.
Meanwhile, Clark was inserted for the final 45 minutes and made a leaping save from a header that came off a whipping cross to his far post.
The stop was one of four Clark made in the second half.
"I knew they were looking to chip it," Clark said. "So as soon as he hit, I got to my spot and caught it off the guy's head and made the save."
Clark has more professional experience, having spent the past four seasons in Norway, while Lampson hasn't played much for the Crew in his two-year career.
However, experience doesn't equate to a starting gig in the MLS.
Talent mixed with hard work is what wins out in the professional game.
"I've always been of the mindset that competition breeds success," Lampson said. "The intensity level and the overall quality of goalkeeping that we've had in practices so far in this preseason have been top notch. Probably the best I've had in my career. So whenever you have an atmosphere like that and quality goalkeepers that you are working with every day ... you are going to get better."
Lampson was credited with six saves against Malmo, but both keepers have their eyes on improving themselves for the remainder of camp.
"I want to be solid in all the aspects of goalkeeping, not just necessarily having to excel in one area and then be weak in another," Lampson said. "I really want to continue to increase my range in terms of controlling my area. I think that's a huge thing in goalkeeping in MLS. Continue to make the routine saves and I want to continue to improve with my feet."
So while it's too early to gauge who has the upper hand, Lampson and Clark provided solid play with roughly a month left until the season opener at D.C. United.
It's an area the Crew needs to solidify after they allowed 46 goals last season en route to finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference and out of a playoff spot.
TORONTO FC 1, D.C. UNITED 0 -- In the second game of the day at IMG, Bright Dike scored the lone goal in the 85th minute to give Toronto the victory in a dense fog.
Toronto's first preseason game marked the debut of U.S. Men's National Team stalwart Michael Bradley.