The State of MLS Goalkeeping / by Bill Reno

For those unfamiliar with ASA’s goalkeeping stats, the long explanation can be found here and the short of it is that the “G - xG” stat column, Goals Allowed Minus Expected Goals, is how many goals goalkeepers are giving up from expected shooting areas. A negative number means they’re doing well, saving their team that many goals, while a positive number means they aren’t performing up to the standard MLS goalkeeper. The table is also reproduced below.

Keeper Team Min SOG GA xGA G - xG
Bill Hamid DCU 384 20 2 5.55 -3.55
Tyler Deric HOU 480 18 2 5.39 -3.39
Bobby Shuttleworth NE 476 23 6 9.05 -3.05
Clinton Irwin COL 385 11 2 3.77 -1.77
Luis Robles NYRB 287 13 2 3.64 -1.64
Josh Saunders NYC 383 13 2 3.52 -1.52
David Bingham SJ 480 27 7 8.48 -1.48
Jeff Attinella RSL 97 6 1 2.38 -1.38
Chris Seitz FCD 480 17 4 5.27 -1.27
Nick Rimando RSL 290 11 2 3.15 -1.15
David Ousted VAN 486 16 4 4.74 -0.74
Steve Clark CLB 289 11 3 3.70 -0.70
Sean Johnson CHI 284 11 4 4.59 -0.59
Luis Marin SKC 480 20 5 5.58 -0.58
Jaime Penedo LA 194 12 3 3.51 -0.51
Jon Busch CHI 196 9 3 3.05 -0.05
Eric Kronberg MTL 97 3 2 1.87 0.13
Evan Bush MTL 193 7 1 0.82 0.18
Brian Rowe LA 286 8 3 2.80 0.20
Stefan Frei SEA 383 8 3 2.79 0.21
Adam Larsen Kwarasey POR 477 14 5 4.49 0.51
Joe Bendik TOR 383 27 8 6.61 1.39
Donovan Ricketts ORL 483 12 5 3.25 1.75
Rais Mbolhi PHI 486 19 9 7.18 1.82
*Does not included own goals scored on oneself. Oh hi, Tyler.

By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)

2015 could be a big year for Nick Rimando. The RSL goalie is looking to capture his first MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, something he has been robbed of for multiple years now. It’s tough enough for him to earn it this late in his career (he’ll be 36 this summer) but to think of him having a realistic chance next year doesn't sound plausible. We've already seen signs of him aging two games into the season.

Rimando earned a lot of praise in his first game with his mult-save shutout against Portland in week one. However, he followed up against Philadelphia was three goals, all of which he could have played much better.

0:55 - An obvious cross from the right sees Rimando doing his trademark “cheat” out towards the penalty spot. (Think of a defensive shift in baseball.) Rimando knows the future location of the pass - a direct shot is almost definitely not going to happen - so he scoots away from the goal. There a many problems with this idea and the 2002-US-Portugal-esque result is a large one. Rimando doesn’t need the extra step to cover the ground he is responsible for. The goalmouth is the main priority, not the penalty spot.

1:18 - As the ball is cleared out for another throw-in, Rimando turns away and steps towards his goal. He quickly looks back but does not give any call to his defenders for the ensuing danger. After the goal, he screams at his defenders for not paying attention, but the truth of the matter is that is starts with Rimando himself. He is equally at fault if not more so for his lack of positioning on the shot. Watch 1:27-1:28 in slow motion, his right foot steps away from the shot, a classic sign of a stance far too wide. If he closes his gate, he can perhaps take care of the shot.

2:25 - Another crossing situation. Surely the same mistake cannot happen twice.

Rimando’s, ahem, "aggressive" play has obvious problems. First, if anything were to go wrong, the goalmouth is completely open. This applies for crossing situations, 1v1 situations, scrambles in the box, and shots from distance. (Basically every part of goalkeeping.) Secondly, the defense will struggle to know exactly how to play a crossing situation now. Rimando did not play this aggressively last year and now his defense must adjust. In a quick situation, should the defender abandon marking responsibilities to cover the goal? Or do they challenge the loose ball? It is tough to say now.

If he is consistent with other goalkeepers who have taken the path of over-aggressiveness, it will translate into all aspects of his goalkeeping. 1v1 situations will be too forceful and lacking of patience, shots in the box will be met with flapping arms instead of thoughtful positioning, and footwork will become an afterthought. Unfortunately for Mr. Rimando, he shows early signs of a goalkeeper nearing retirement: relying too much on hopeful play that does not trust percentages.

As for the GOTY award, here is your author Bill’s expert opinion on the matter; don’t let this be confused as to which goalkeepers are better, as that is an entirely different question. Think of this as a popularity vote. (See last five years of the MLS GOTY Award.)

Bill Hamid - Only a transfer abroad or injury will drop him from the number one spot.
Bobby Shuttleworth - Had a successful run with the Revs last year and now a great start, despite the six conceded goals. Consistency is still in question.
Steve Clark - Best goalkeeper in MLS will undoubtedly be snubbed again.
Luis Robles - Most consistent goalkeeper might get an added boost from RBNY’s player reshuffle.
Nick Rimando - Will go down as the greatest MLS goalkeeper to never win the award.
Luis Marin - Voters love Kansas City goalkeepers for some reason.
Chris Seitz - Quietly keeping counter-happy Dallas calm in the back.
Joe Bendik - Has the tools but had trouble putting it together in 2014. Could 2015 be a breakout year?
Tyler Deric - Stellar start, minus time time when he kicked the ball off an opposing player and into his own goal.
Stefan Frei - Underrated and has shown true, tangible growth despite the ponytail.