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Having developed into the dependable starter that Whitecaps FC wanted, will it be enough to protect the Dane come expansion draft time?

VANCOUVER — There are many ways to presently judge Vancouver Whitecaps FC's 2014 season. Some of it has been good, while some of it has left a lot to be desired.

The Blue & White have been exciting to watch, especially at BC Place, but they have also frustrated supporters with their inconsistent play and habit of claiming too many draws.

While it remains to be seen where this campaign will finish for the 'Caps, a bright note has been the emergence of goalkeeper David Ousted into a reliable MLS starter.

With 23 starts under his belt, the 29-year-old's first full MLS season has proven his increasing value of dependability as Vancouver's last line of defence.

Of the seven clean sheets that the Danish shotstopper has already earned this term, the last three arrived in the Whitecaps' last three games. They include two 0-0 away draws to Chicago Fire and Chivas USA, with a 2-0 home win over MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City sandwiched in between.

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Last weekend's performance against Chivas USA was particularly notable for how Ousted conducted himself at the StubHub Center. Though not severely tested by The Goats, the Dane looked comfortable with every save he made, including one key stop with his foot in the second half.

"I think I've been solid and consistent on a high level and that's been important to me," Ousted said this week. "Knowing the guys can trust me has been important to me. I worked hard in the offseason and it's paying off now."

Ousted's form provides one less concern for head coach Carl Robinson to think about, as does the steady and assured play of Vancouver's current backline in Steven Beitashour, Jordan Harvey, Johnny Leveron, and Andy O'Brien.

While the club did not confirm last week's reports that it had picked up Ousted's contract option, his value to the Whitecaps ponders the question if he is worthy of protecting come expansion draft time in December.

As the second highest-paid shotstopper in MLS at over $266,000 guaranteed compensation for 2014, Robinson and his staff will have a difficult decision whether to protect Ousted on their expansion draft list.

With plenty of young and emerging talent in his squad, the dilemma for Robinson is juggling the idea that Ousted's big salary might be enough to deter both New York City FC and Orlando City SC from picking the Scandinavian import, should he leave his starting goalkeeper unprotected.

It is a decision that is several months away from needing to be made, but at the same time, it is an issue that cannot be avoided for coaches or players around MLS. Even Ousted knows that he may find himself in the middle of the process.

"I’m just thinking about this season and doing what I’m supposed to do, but it is a little bit weird not knowing what’s coming next year," Ousted told The Province earlier this month. "I’ve said all along, I like the security here for my family and I like it here in Vancouver."

What might sway Robinson and the 'Caps to protecting Ousted is his form in this final stretch of the season. Should more clean sheets and crucial saves be produced by the Dane, Vancouver might be convinced that it has a number one goalkeeper the club can ill-afford to part ways with.

While those expansion draft headaches and nerves are still to come for the club and players alike, the story of Ousted's influence on the current Whitecaps campaign is still to be written.

And what an interesting story it may prove to be…