Troy Perkins knows exactly what a lot of people were thinking as recently as late May regarding his return to the Washington D.C. United men's soccer team after a two-year stint in Norway.

Troy Perkins knows exactly what a lot of people were thinking as recently as late May regarding his return to the Washington D.C. United men's soccer team after a two-year stint in Norway.

What was wrong with the 6-foot-2 goalkeeper who firmly had established himself as one of the best in Major League Soccer just three years ago?

After a 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on May 22, the United were just 1-8 in the league and Perkins' goals-against average of nearly 2.5 per game earned him a spot on the bench.

While dealing with such adversity on the field isn't a place he has been accustomed to since breaking through to become the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006, Perkins kept things in perspective.

"To be put on the bench was probably the best thing for me," Perkins said. "You can never stop learning, so I made sure I learned a lot watching the game from the bench."

Things finally have returned to normal for the 28-year-old who has been a goalkeeper since he was in the sixth grade. He led the Thomas Worthington High School boys team to the 1998 state championship.

He got a rare chance to return to central Ohio last Saturday when the United traveled to Columbus to face the Crew, the leaders of the Eastern Conference.

It was the third consecutive league start for Perkins. He finished with seven saves but gave up a pair of second-half goals in a 2-0 loss.

The Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored in the 57th minute, and Dublin native Eric Brunner made it 2-0 in the 87th minute.

Replays of Schelotto's goal showed a looping shot by Emilio Renteria that hit the left post and then went off the right fist of Schelotto before he tapped it in. D.C. argued to no avail that the play was a handball.

Although Perkins gave up two goals, United coach Curt Onalfo was thankful for his keeper's play during a game in which his team couldn't knock in any of several first-half chances.

"I thought (Perkins) played extremely well from start to finish," Onalfo said. "He had some crucial saves and weathered the storm at times for us."

Perkins left the locker room to find 26 friends and family waiting for him in what was his first game in Crew Stadium since 2007.

"It seems a little smaller than it used to be with the way the one end is kind of lopsided," Perkins said. "But it's nice being back. You can tell they've got a nice fan base now."

Perkins was benched for D.C.'s 3-2 victory over Chivas USA on May 29 as 19-year-old backup Bill Hamid picked up the victory.

Both Hamid and Perkins got on the field during a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on June 2 in a U.S. Open Cup game, and Perkins re-entered the starting lineup for D.C.'s June 5 game against Real Salt Lake.

Perkins responded by posting his first shutout of the season during a scoreless tie and also picked up the win June 10 as the United beat Seattle 3-2.

He gained another shot of confidence with a 1-0 friendly victory over the El Salvador National Team on June 19 before his return to Columbus.

"It's a fine line," Perkins said of his ups and downs this season. "When things like that happen, you've got to have the right people around you. You start questioning your ability, and whether you should be here or not. It was tough. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself because they gave up a lot to get me. I think every professional goes through it."

Perkins joined the United as an undrafted rookie in 2004 and was a part-time starter during the team's championship season that year. After starting two games in 2005, he started all but two games for D.C. in 2006. That season he led all MLS keepers in wins (15) while also finishing among the league leaders in goals-against-average (1.13) and shutouts (eight).

After going 16-6-7 in 2007, Perkins decided to take a shot at a professional career in Europe.

In 2008, Perkins helped Valerenga from the Norwegian first division win its first Norwegian Cup title in six years. Last season, he started 27 league games.

Also in 2009, Perkins played in the UEFA Cup for the first time, starting two games for Valerenga.

Simultaneously during his time in Norway, however, his wife, Elizabeth, struggled to find a job. She previously had earned an undergraduate degree from Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy.

With an eye on helping his wife settle into her career, Perkins asked to be transferred back to the MLS at the end of Valerenga's season last winter.

As a national team player returning to the MLS, Perkins was subject to the league's allocation process. Philadelphia was at the top of the list, so in order for the United to re-acquire him, they had to negotiate a trade. In January, the United agreed to trade Brazilian midfielder Fred, the seventh overall pick, and financial considerations for Perkins' rights.

Perkins' wife had little trouble finding a job near their home in Washington, D.C., where they live with their 17-month-old son, Jackson.

As the United attempts to continue turning around a season in which it was seventh at 3-9-1 in the Eastern Conference before last Wednesday, Perkins believes he finally might be settling in.

"From the last time I was here, there are probably only three or four guys back, so it's taken us a while to sort things out," Perkins said. "I was worrying about making too much of an impact early on, but I think we've figured some things out as players."