The State of MLS Goalkeeping So Far in 2016: "Meh" / by Bill Reno

By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)

Well looks like my hot takes from last month are already starting to crumble. Let’s take a quick run through before we go into MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Power Rankings.

1. Luis Robles and David Ousted will duke it out for Goalkeeper of the Year again - Off to a rough start to say the least. I wouldn’t count them out completely, but the first month was definitely not kind to them. Expect them to turn it around, but it will take a strong push to get them in the conversation for a second year. However, play across the board has been thin by the majority of goalkeepers so maybe just maybe.

2. Dykstra will make people momentarily forget about Bill Hamid - Well the injury definitely was not kind but there could be some time for Dykstra to start before Hamid gets back to 100%. The jury is still out on this although they are all heavily leaning “no” at the moment.

3. Tim Howard will have a forgettable year - The 2-0 loss to Guatemala isn’t helping his case, let me just say that.

4. Sean Johnson starts seeing his way out in Chicago - The strongest prediction as of right now. There’s been rumors of wrist injuries but it seems he’s been on the bench mostly due to a coach’s decision. Even if Johnson does top Matt Lampson in the depth chart, don’t count out Patrick McLain. At this point, I’d expect McLain to get a game over Johnson.

5. Philadelphia and Los Angeles’ goalkeeping woes continue - Andre Blake is red hot right now but knowing Philadelphia juju, it seems a strong possibility that they will sign four more goalkeepers and Blake willl pick up a knock sooner than later. Rowe is sitting even keel between boom and bust right now but to be honest, all of this doesn’t matter until playoffs come. That will be the make or break for these teams.

Hey, I didn’t hear any of your goalkeeper hot takes so watch it! 2016 MLS goalkeeping has been stressful to watch and can best be summed up as “funky”. You never know how a goalkeeper is going to show up in March. The goalkeepers we thought would excel have struggled while there have been a few pleasant surprises. So essentially they are not who we thought they were, and… they’re still on the hook? Not sure how that analogy works so let’s just head over to the power rankings.

MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Power Rankings

1. Tim Melia - By all accounts, it’s his spot to lose. We’ve talked extensively about how there’s a much stronger correlation between team performance and the award, than a goalkeeper’s performance. Melia is in a great spot with Sporting Kansas City that should they finished even top three, he is a serious contender for the award. What’s his secret? Hard to say but unlike his peers, he brings a rarely seen intensity to the field. Sometimes it’s chaotic and not textbook by any means, but so far it’s working.

2. Evan Bush - Maybe it’s just me but it seems that even Montreal fans don’t realize how good their own goalkeeper is playing when compared to the rest of the league. (Please send angry tweets to @letsallsoccer.) Bush has somehow managed to keep a low profile over the years - as if a CONCACAF Champions League Gold Glove means nothing - but he’s a goalkeeper who hasn’t been hit by the early season mistake/injury bug. Consistency is key here and Bush is off to a great start.

3. David Bingham - The San Jose darling has a great thing going for him: his name will forever be attached to the term “USMNT”, regardless of how good or bad he’s playing. So in that sense, he’s automatically thrown into the race. I still think he’s getting a couple too many passes for mistakes, which again is credit to the USMNT tag. He has a great story and he’s put on a stage where people want him to succeed. If he can limit the errors, he has a great chance moving up the list.

4. Andre Blake - People love shot stoppers and Andre Blake is right there with the best of them. History isn’t on Philadelphia’s side but we could always see a repeat of the 2007 award, where Chivas USA’s Brad Guzan won the award, which could also be renamed the MLS Purple Heart Award for all the shots he survived. Blake doesn’t have the first time experience that smooths out mistakes so don’t be surprised when his positioning gets him in hot water. If the award was all about saves, he’d most likely get it, but it’s foolish to deny he’s unproven in some areas.

5. Steve Clark - For every bad goal you let it, it takes about 20-30 game changing-saves to get people to forget it. If Clark can continue his solid start, and if Columbus can start averaging more than half a point a game, he should be able to outrun last year’s gaff. Although goals that bounce off the post then hit Clark and get knocked into a rebound aren’t changing the perception of Clark being worthy of the award, unfortunately.

6. Brian Rowe - When one door closes, another one opens. Twenty minutes into the season and Dan Kennedy goes down with an injury and Brian Rowe is forced into action. He’s on the list because he’s in the similar position as Melia, except that he has yet to really exude the confidence that the Midwestern goalkeeper has. But don’t count Rowe out. The Galaxy have been patient with him for a reason. However it would take him playing above himself to hear his name attached to the award in November. “Can he do it?” is a question Galaxy fans have been asking for about three years now.

7. David Ousted - Talk about a bad start. Ousted really didn’t help out my prediction last month by almost single handedly blowing the opener. We know 2015 wasn’t a fluke so if he can keep up what we know he can do, perhaps he can throw his name back in the ring down the line, but he will need a boost from Vancouver in a stacked Western Conference.

8. Luis Robles - Well we know he’s not great at 1v1s. Yes, his defense is hanging him out to dry but Robles’ reckless style has given up more than his fair share of goals. The Red Bulls are sitting at a disappointing eighth place right now and while we all know there’s a corner to turn soon, Robles has his own issues to worry about. This is a great example of how a team’s play can impact a goalkeeper’s standing with the public. If Robles was great a 1v1s, but sloppy elsewhere across the board, would we rate him higher through the first few weeks?

9. Clint Irwin - Irwin has done a great job of keeping his name familiar with everyone on Twitter and when Toronto hits that next gear we all know they’re capable of, all eyes will be on Irwin. Toronto has only made playoffs once in their nine year existence so this is unfamiliar territory for the team. But if they can rely on more than just the Italian up top to solve all their problems, Irwin’s in a great spot for the award. Heck, he’s so beloved that even him shaking his damn head at power rankings makes him more loveable!

10. Joe Willis - You heard it here first! Going into the season, I would have rated Tyler Deric here, if not higher, but Willis has filled in for the injured started more than admirably. The question is less if he can keep it up and more if he can stay on the field. When Deric returns to 100%, who will start for Houston? MLS coaches love riding the hot hand and Willis most definitely has it. Right now it’s Willis’ goal to defend, both on and off the field.