By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)
It’s March and we all know what that means: every writer across the nation is baking up their hottest takes to ultimately not be held accountable at the end of the season. Well ASA is allowing me to put their upstanding reputation on the line with five predictions for MLS’s gloved men heading into the 2016 season. Make sure to bookmark this post so you can link it to everyone at ASA in eight months and give us a boost in hits come November!
1. Luis Robles and David Ousted will duke it out for Goalkeeper of the Year again - If there’s one thing that has proven consistent with the award, the goalkeeper on the team who wins their conference has a great shot of winning the award. Dating back to when the league split to two conferences, ten of the fourteen years GOTY winners have gone to goalkeepers whose teams finished first in their conference. This means Tim Melia (SKC) and Clint Irwin (Toronto) also have a decent shot but Robles and Ousted are the best bets. It’s a rare sight to see either goalkeeper costing their team points in a game and both of their teams are looking to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield again.
2. Dykstra will make people momentarily forget about Bill Hamid - All eyes are on Hamid’s return but DC United seem to be undervaluing their current backup-turned-starter. Dykstra flew under the radar last season by only playing nine games - including a great game against Chicago - but looking at how DC played with and without Hamid, DC didn’t suffer without their number one goalkeeper. Through Dykstra’s nine games, DC scored 17 and allowed 16 goals (including a dramatic 6-4 win over Real Salt Lake). Hamid, on the other hand, saw his team net 26 goals and concede 29 in his 25 games he played. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but Dykstra has the tools to help DC continue to not miss Hamid this season.
Future hot take: New England Revolution decided to pass on their discovery claim over USYNT goalkeeper Charlie Horton and trade the rights to DC. We don’t know all the details but what we do know is the Revs decided that they could get by with recent Fairfield graduate and undrafted senior, Matt Turner. One of the teams knows something the other doesn’t and I’m leaning with New England on this one.
3. Tim Howard will have a forgettable year - For the first time in a long time, the EPL is soon to be without any American goalkeepers. Howard has decided to return to MLS with or without his 4/20 request. Unfortunately, it’s not the defense the Rapids need help with; Colorado sat dead last in the West last year by tallying only 33 goals in 34 games. Similarly to how everyone conveniently forgot about Nick Rimando when RSL fell to a slightly more impressive ninth in the west (just one spot above the Rapids), fans will be glad to see Tim Howard playing stateside again but don’t expect him to be playing when playoffs roll around. One positive, and maybe the only one, is that Zac MacMath gets to continue developing his game behind a USMNT legend.
4. Sean Johnson starts seeing his way out in Chicago - The big question when evaluating Sean Johnson is “How has he developed since when he first entered MLS?” (Besides him winning a Lamborghini, of course.) He continues to look overwhelmed in goal, his communication is more than lacking, he doesn’t radiate confidence when dealing with crosses, shot-stopping and distribution are streaky and… well, you get the idea. Chicago have wisely signed the stellar USL goalkeeper Patrick McLain and ex-Columbus Crew backup Matt Lampson to pressure Johnson for the starting spot. Don’t be surprised if someone not intialled “SJ” ends up with the most starts for Chicago at the end of the year. Johnson’s maximum selling point was about three years ago and he failed to reach the ceiling everyone has been expecting for some time. With a salary of a quarter of a million dollars, he is not only in danger of losing his starting spot, but even a roster spot.
5. Philadelphia and Los Angeles’ goalkeeping woes continue - Admittedly, Philadelphia is far better off than where it was for the past decade but Andre Blake isn’t at the point yet to where he’s going to positively impact a game week in, week out. If the Union can continue to be patient with Blake and John McCarthy, both of which have large upsides, the wait will be worth it. But it’s Philadelphia so they quite possibly could sell all their goalkeepers and signed five USYNTs. It’s hard to say. On the other coast, the Galaxy are trying to rebound from having their season end in a complete goalkeeping disaster. Since the bizarre ending with Jaime Penedo, there was expectation that Brian Rowe would take the starting spot. However, injuries derailed Rowe’s progression, and when turning to an aging veteran didn’t work last year, they’re trying the same formula once again with Dan Kennedy. Kennedy’s game has been on the downslope for years now and it won’t help Galaxy moving forward. Their best bet is Rowe finally coming into form, but even that looks doubtful.