By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)
We’re a little over a month from MLS announcing MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Even though they haven’t announced the nominees, there are only two goalkeepers worthy of winning the award.
MLS has committed grievous sins over the course of the award’s lifetime, but none are more serious than Nick Rimando not winning the award for sixteen years. Rimando has finished in the top four in each of the last four years but has yet to win the award, which might as well be named after him at this point. This year, Rimando set the record for most games played and wins recorded as a goalkeeper, and he’s currently within thirty saves of overtaking Kevin Hartman for the number one spot in that category as well.
Admittedly, Rimando turned 37 this summer and isn’t the same caliber of goalkeeper he was years past. He’s given up some soft goals this year but overall he’s aided Real Salt Lake’s return to the playoffs after a ninth place finish in 2015. There’s no other goalkeeper who deserves the award more than him.
If you’re the kind of stickler that doesn’t want to posthumously fix a past error, you selection has to be Jake Gleeson. Yes, Portland is currently outside looking in with playoffs at the moment, but Gleeson has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. Portland is having the slightest of chances of making playoffs because of Gleeson. He has not only made Timbers fans forget about Adam Kwarasey’s rough start to the year, Gleeson has been the best goalkeeper in 2016. Forging an approach akin to Tim Melia’s style, Gleeson has provided a great balance of scrambling but calming assurance that Portland needed in the back.
He doesn’t have the international experience that others have but when rewarding MLS goalkeepers for the seasonal performance, Gleeson is number one. If we’re not going to finally reward Rimando for being one of MLS’s - if not the - best goalkeeper ever, then Gleeson is the correct selection.
There are other goalkeepers but ultimately they haven’t had the season these two have had. Bill Hamid missed a third of the season with his knee (although he has does well in his return). 2015 GOTY runner-up David Ousted has had a one step forward-one step back-type of season. International darlings Andre Blake and David Bingham are making the highlight reel saves but are far too often letting in a soft goals. 2015 winner Luis Robles has the quality to push his team far in the playoffs, but his season performance has been mild in comparison to last year’s. For anyone who has watched more than MLS’s “best of” videos, the two options are clear.
Who the final three nominees will be are up in the air. If Portland doesn’t make the playoffs, it’s unlikely Gleeson will finish in the top three. There’s an argument that if you don’t make playoffs then you shouldn't win the award, which I don’t buy into but at least it is a consistent standard to the award. Bingham and Blake are pushed so hard by the media that it’s impossible to imagine both of them not making the nominee list. They haven’t had awful seasons, although ASA’s XG has Blake on the wrong side of zero, but they don’t deserve the award this year. It’s either Rimando or Gleeson.