MLS Preseason: Goalkeeper Power Rankings
Power Ranking MLS Goalkeepers
Goalkeeper is one of the deepest positions in MLS even though the best keeper race in 2013 came down to two players. There has been one key addition to the keeper core this year as well as a couple names changing places. With the season opening on March 8th there are still a couple starters undecided, but the options will not threaten the top of the list. Despite the depth at keeper in MLS, the elite separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
As with any type of power ranking there can be plenty of discussion. The keeper can shine even if their team is not playing so well. That generally only lasts for so long, so statistics can only tell a part of the story. In these rankings things like distribution of the ball and dreadful plays that make the low lights are taken into consideration. Of course, these rankings can change as the season wears on.
There are some new keepers in contention this year. Michael Gspurning was not offered another contract from the Seattle Sounders and moved back to Greece. Joe Bendik lost his job with Toronto FC. Andy Gruenebaum moved onto Sporting Kansas City via a trade with the Columbus Crew. The Philadephia Union also introduced us to a goalkeeper of the future by selecting Andre Blake number one in the MLS SuperDraft.
While the Eastern Conference made the majority of the splash acquisitions over the winter, the Western Conference has the advantage in the top 10. RantSports takes a look at MLS keepers before the 2014 season gets underway with no surprise at the top, but a few on the way up the chart.
19. David Ousted - Vancouver Whitecaps
After David Ousted finished the 2013 season as the starter he was given the reigns permanently ahead of the 2014 season. Unfortunately he has had no competition to push him in the preseason and the Vancouver Whitecaps are moving to an attacking style. This means they could be vulnerable to the counter attack, which does not bode well for a team that may struggle to find its defensive identity. Ousted will also have to be good on his distribution and he has not proven that ability thus far.
18. Troy Perkins - Montreal Impact
Keeper Troy Perkins understands that he has to assume more of a leadership role this year. He also stated he wants double digit shutouts this year with the Montreal Impact. However the Impact allowed 13 goals in the final ten games last year and they still have a makeshift back line with no chemistry. Perkins will see a deep back line in front of him and may only be as good as that weak link.
17. Steve Clark - Columbus Crew
It was good timing for Steve Clark to come to MLS after spending time in Norway, but his record for Honefoss does not say much about his ability. His back line may be juggled for international duty so he is sure to be tested a lot. With a new coach, Gregg Berhalter, Clark needs to impress or he will be pulled for Matt Lampson as the Crew look for their identity.
16. Eric Kronberg - Sporting Kansas City
It is a changing of the guard for the defending MLS Cup champion in Kansas City. SKC are looking to replace Jimmy Nielsen and the nod should go to their longest-tenured player, Eric Kronberg. He has pressure from the veteran Gruenebaum, but should see the majority of the starts. SKC has a busy year including a match with current Liga MX leader Cruz Azul. Once Kronberg gets a few games under his belt, he could skyrocket up this list.
15. Jon Busch - San Jose Earthquakes
Have you ever thought that the San Jose Earthquakes might not have to use the "goonies never die" mantra if they were just better on defense and in goal? Jon Busch did have nine shutouts last year with a 71% save percentage in 2013. However he is now 37 years old and his form is very up and down. He will also have an aging defensive line in front of him. In other words, there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about Busch's season.
14. Brad Knighton - New England Revolution
The Whitecaps decided not to renew the contract of Brad Knighton, but his former team claimed him through the Re-Entry Draft. Now Knighton has a good shot of winning the starting job for the New England Revolution. Matt Reis retired at the end of last season and Knighton has been in a battle with Bobby Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth started 22 games last year so either keeper could gain the confidence of the Revs.
13. Marcus Hahnemann/Stefan Frei - Seattle Sounders
The battle for the starting job with the Seattle Sounders is still unsettled. Both have shown their ability in MLS play and it could come down to veteran versus youth. Marcus Hahnemann may have a slight edge having started several matches for Seattle last year. Stefan Frei was acquired from Toronto FC in December.
12. Zac MacMath - Philadelphia Union
Could Zac MacMath be the most polarizing goalkeeper in MLS? If he wasn't before the Philadelphia Union drafted Andre Blake with the first pick, then he surely became the biggest topic of conversation. The biggest issue with MacMath always seems to be his confidence. He was highly inconsistent in the beginning of the 2013 but turned it around down the stretch. Still it's hard to get the imagery out of one's head of a MacMath own goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy that bounced off his own head on a failed punch attempt.
11. Bill Hamid - D.C. United
If MacMath isn't the most polarizing keeper than it is D.C. United's Bill Hamid. Hamid has been called up to USMNT camp, but never sees much action. He completed a training stint with West Bromwich Albion over the winter. Hamid has shown some jitters clearing his area but also played behind a disjointed back four last year. A rebuilt defense should help Hamid this year.
10. Dan Kennedy - Chivas USA
There is a lot going on with Chivas USA after MLS decided to buy the club and search for new owners. Thankfully for the team they do not have to worry about the goalkeeper as Dan Kennedy returns from his third-consecutive, 100-save season. Kennedy was vocal about improving the team at the end of 2013, a year in which he often wore the captain's armband. On a dreadful team in 2013, Kennedy finished second in saves in MLS.
9. Raul Fernandez - FC Dallas
The season fell apart for FC Dallas last year and in many ways so did Raul Fernandez. After winning the job and getting off to a great start, the Peruvian keeper struggled a bit. The team defense was bad and it was hard for Fernandez to stave off opposing attacks. However, the last few weeks of the 2013 season he rebounded and commanded his area very well. There was a confidence about his play that should carry over to this season. Fernandez has also been carrying the flag for MLS trying to get his fellow countrymen to come to the league.
8. Sean Johnson - Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson has been conquering preseason play after time with the USMNT January camp. He is also stressing communication with a new back line as they learn Johnson's command of his area. Johnson may be one of the better decision-making keepers in the league. New coach Frank Yallop has expressed confidence in the 24-year-old goalkeeper.
7. Luis Robles - New York Red Bulls
Scrutiny in New York is usually higher than elsewhere in the sports landscape but the 2013 season was when people stopped talking about Luis Robles in negative terms. The New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield for many reasons and Robles was one of them playing every minute of the season. He was rewarded with a new deal in December after recording 17 victories last year.
6. Clint Irwin - Colorado Rapids
It is easy to like Clint Irwin once you know his story and he has been willing to share his struggle to make it to this point. After Irwin took over the job for the Colorado Rapids despite starting the season as the number three keeper, he put his name on the map with a performance against the Seattle Sounders. For Irwin this season means focus as he doesn't have to worry about finding a team. Irwin simply wants to get better.
5. Tally Hall - Houston Dynamo
The top five keepers in the league is where the separation from the rest is clearly evident. The Houston Dynamo do not change much and the goalkeeper, Tally Hall, has been a given over the past few years. He has started every league match for the Dynamo over the previous three seasons and set plenty of records along the way. Hall has the ability to steal a game with his size and is above average in all other aspects. The key this year will be communication as the defense has changed a bit.
4. Jaime Penedo - Los Angeles Galaxy
The Los Angeles Galaxy needed some help between the pipes last year so they went and got Jaime Penedo. He supposedly turned down offers from Italy and England to sign in MLS. Penedo also had a stellar year with the Panama National Team despite failing to make the World Cup thanks to late goals by Aron Johannsson and Graham Zusi. In nine starts last season Penedo had five clean sheets. His full body of work makes him a top five keeper in MLS.
3. Julio Cesar - Toronto FC
Speaking of body of work, Julio Cesar has quite a long list. The number one keeper for the Brazilian National Team joined Toronto FC two weeks ago. Cesar played with his current manager, Ryan Nelsen, while at QPR and is using this opportunity to prepare for the World Cup. Cesar is a two-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year and a Champions League winner with Inter.
Cesar has to have a major motivating factor this season knowing he is playing in the World Cup in his homeland.
2. Donovan Ricketts - Portland Timbers
The Jamaican keeper for the Portland Timbers was a star last year. Donovan Ricketts seems to be getting better with age as he continues to make the stellar saves. He was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2013 becoming one of only four people to win the award multiple times. He does have the occasional issue clearing the ball from his area with his feet but his dependability makes him a top three keeper. Ricketts set personal bests in 2013 with 14 shutouts and 92 saves. He was second in the league in goals against average.
1. Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake
There is a reason that Nick Rimando has been called into USMNT camps over and over. He commands his area well and may be the best communicator between the pipes in MLS. He has embraced the role of a leader for Real Salt Lake. Rimando is not the tallest keeper and has a bit of an unorthodox style, but his reflexes and reaction time are unmatched. The 2013 season was the best stat-wise for Rimando since 2010 and he won Save of the Year. He will be among the top keepers in the league again.