By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)
The finalists have been announced! We’re down to three goalkeepers that are all quality players in their own right. Bill Hamid. Luis Robles. David Ousted. You know the names or else you wouldn’t be reading this. All three have led their team to playoffs and have just a little time left to show who should become the 2015 Audi Cup MLS Audi Goalkeeper of the Audi Year [sic]. But don’t take my word for it, let’s hear what each of the nominees have to say for themselves. Here at ASA, we’ve obtained quotes from each of the goalkeepers that may or may not actually be from the goalkeepers themselves.
Why do you deserve to win Goalkeeper of the Year?
Bill Hamid: Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear he doesn’t like MLS. So I’m already on thin ice and if I can’t be the best goalkeeper in this league I’m likely to not receive any more call ups or get pushed out to play left back.
Luis Robles: Did you see the supporters’ meeting? If I don’t bring back some hardware I wouldn’t be surprised if a riot broke out after me. Please, someone, give me this award.
David Ousted: Canada is really cold.
What would you do if you won the award?
Hamid: Call Sean Johnson to cheer him up.
Robles: Put some macaroni art on it in the shape of a smiley face.
Ousted: Buy a coat.
You heard it hear first. The award will be presented November 19th, just in time to miss both the conference finals and MLS Cup.
(It should be noted that Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia is on the Comeback Play of the Year shortlist from coming back from not having a job to getting his team into the playoffs.)
The award is a little tricky to predict. For starters, I didn’t even have David Ousted in the top ten when the season began. I claimed it was Hamid’s to lose barring an injury, which I do get goalie points for correctly calling that caveat. Still, it’s near impossible to predict at the start of the season who will be in the running seven months later but narrowing the field down to just three doesn’t make it much easier. While I’ve stuck with Ousted since May as my winner, I didn’t even name Robles in the top five in September and clearly it’s more important how you finish than start. So let’s see if we can find a pattern with the voters so we have a heads up going into the award.
Team Performance Matters
If you’re a great goalkeeper on a bad team then you get the award of a raise in contract or getting traded. However to win the MLS GOTY you need to be on a top team. Here is a list of previous winners and the place their team finished in their conference, starting in 2002 when the league went to two conferences.
2002 Joe Cannon San Jose Earthquakes - 2nd
2003 Pat Onstad San Jose Earthquakes - 1st
2004 Joe Cannon Colorado Rapids - 1st
2005 Pat Onstad San Jose Earthquakes - 1st
2006 Troy Perkins D.C. United - 1st
2007 Brad Guzan Chivas USA - 1st
2008 Jon Busch - Chicago Fire - 2nd
2009 Zach Thornton - Chivas USA - 4th
2010 Donovan Ricketts - Los Angeles Galaxy - 1st
2011 Kasey Keller - Seattle Sounders FC - 2nd
2012 Jimmy Nielsen - Sporting Kansas City - 1st
2013 Donovan Ricketts - Portland Timbers - 1st
2014 Bill Hamid - DC United - 1st
Nine out of the thirteen years the goalkeeper came from a first place team. Now you may think, “Well if their goalkeeper does well, then their team will finish high in the standings.” And you know... that’s a great point. Nothing to argue with there.
Robles’ Red Bulls won the shield, so it’s easy to see him on this list. DC United finished 4th and Vancouver finished 2nd, in their respective conferences.
No, not the good ones. The really silly ones like goals allowed average and save percentage. Sure, in every other sport the amount of points conceded is a team stat but hey it’s soccer so let’s pin it on the guy who touches the ball about 20 times a game, not the other ten players that are getting fives times the touches each.
Taking a look at the stats above that voters will surely limit themselves to, the kneejerk reaction is to eliminate Robles because of his low stats. Honestly, I’d love to see his save percentage be a little higher as it’s one of the lowest among all starters but again this isn’t a real gauge for Goalkeeper of the Year. Saving shots is a big part, sure, but not enough to pick a winner. Clearly the Red Bulls haven’t needed him to be better and I can’t think of many games that they lost because of his performance. There are several goalkeepers I cannot say that for with better stats than Robles. Additionally, Steve Clark led the league in passing percentage (76%) and second place was Tally Hall (64%). You don’t see their names here even though the three finalists had an average of 53% passing. Even the goalkeeper who led the league in expected goals saved didn’t make the final three. Some stats matter for the voters and some don’t. But I’m not in charge of the voting and I would not be surprised in the least if Robles is completely off the table for voters because of his stats, despite them watching around a combined three-to-four minutes of YouTube videos on him.
Voters will have the conundrum of voting for two men with similar statlines. Hamid did more in less games, but Ousted did play almost the entire season at nearly the same pace. Which one is more important? Only the voters know.
Save of the Week Awards
Let’s be honest, the people voting are clearly just looking at the highlight reel and have not been watching since the entire season. These are pundits that haven’t played the position or know how to kick a soccer ball. What better way to find out who a good goalkeeper is than a public vote based on a very specific part of the game. Using the very scientific SOTW counter…
Frei - 6
Rimando - 4
Robles - 4
Ousted - 4
Deric - 4
Bush - 3
Attinella - 3
Kwarasey - 2
Dykstra - 1
Clark - 1
Brek Shea - 1
Huh, Brek Shea had more save of the weeks than Hamid. Did not see that coming.
The Voters Have No Clue Who is Actually a Good Goalkeeper
How can I say that? First off, Nick Rimando has never won the award. That’s the easiest point to make. Secondly, when you look back at the winners, they hardly have repeat performances. 2013 winner, Donovan Ricketts, was later dumped to Orlando to go play back up just a year after winning the award. 2012 winner Jimmy Nielsen - who said his replacement “could be the best goalkeeper in the league” - earned the award because he had one of the easiest seasons an MLS goalkeeper has ever had. Kasey Keller won it in 2011 as more of a memorial to his career than the season.
To be fair to the voters, they’re not voting for the best goalkeeper, they’re voting for best performance. But 2015 marks the first time (dating back to when the the runner ups were first released in 2010) that a previous winner was named in next year’s top four. You would think they would overlap a little more than they do.
Who’s Going to Win?
Almost definitely not Robles. And I say that in all respect to him as a goalkeeper because I think he definitely deserves to be in the discussion. I would love to see him get a January call-up but he unfortunately just does not have the eye candy that voters have looked for in the past. Maybe they have change of heart, and if so, then great, but he is definitely on the outside looking in.
From there, it’s honestly a coin-toss between Ousted and Hamid. It should be Ousted but because he’s not getting national team callups, he is at a severe disadvantage for the USMNT-loving press. Had one of the two gone farther in playoffs, I would have picked that goalkeeper but since they both lost on Sunday, who knows. Never mind that Hamid got smoked for five goals in the last game of the season and continually gets praised for saving balls hit straight at him. If Hamid had a killer game against New York, I would have expected Hamid to win it. And vice versa for Ousted. Looking back at previous winners, there’s no reason to have any expectation that the person who should win it will.