By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)
The MLS All-Stars fell 2-1 to Arsenal in the most recent all-star game, with Philadelphia’s Andre Blake and San Jose’s David Bingham splitting time in net. On paper, the two selections make sense. Blake started for Jamaica in the Gold Cup this summer and Bingham was in the running for being the third stringer for the US. But as we've passed the halfway point of the season, the next time a goalkeeper will be selected to represent MLS is with the annual Goalkeeper of the Year Award. The two have a myriad of saves, but are they really deserving of MLS’s most and only prestigious goalkeeping award?
There’s no getting around Blake’s athleticism. MLS boasts of him regularly and to be completely fair, he does make more than his fair share of high caliber saves. Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, for every save of the week candidate he compiles there’s a gaffe right around the corner, and the all-star game wasn't an exception. Not ten minutes into the game, Blake gifts Arsenal a chance on goal, which results in a penalty kick.
Blake’s play highlights easily the worst part of his game: breakaway situations. He could simply go clear the ball or drop back to protect the goal and he chooses neither, leaving him out of sorts atop his eighteen. The indecisiveness is similar to when we saw Blake get nutmegged for a goal (and he is almost lobbed just minutes later), stutter to a poor collapse, or needlessly concede a penalty kick. He gets caught in between options and is left with none. On top of that, his cross management is equally as bad, as he has made more than his fair share off whiffs and spills in the air. To give some credit back to Blake, his distribution has been above average, but not enough to undo his inconsistency in goal.
Looking at Bingham’s goal in the second half, it’s not at the level of Blake’s mistake but he does exit his goalmouth with a limited game plan. He continues to shuffle his feet forward on the play, out of control of saving anything not shot directly at him. By the time he can kick out his left leg to block the slotted pass, the ball is ten feet behind him and about to be hit in for the game winner. The same can be said about Bingham’s play as to Blake’s: moments of greatness spliced with moments we’d like to forget, and probably do. (I wrote a little more on Bingham’s play last post.)
While Blake’s and Bingham’s teams aren't at the bottom of the table, San Jose is actually outside-looking-in on the playoff picture right now and Philadelphia is sitting fifth in PPG in the East. MLS likes to reward goalkeepers on higher profile teams and currently it doesn't look that way for the two keepers. It’s not far-fetched to see both clubs climbing the table, but the bigger point is that neither have propelled their club into shield contention, much less even home field advantage in the playoffs.
Simply put, the two goalkeepers aren't rounded out enough to be rewarded “Goalkeeper of the Year”. They’re not bad goalkeepers - and they’re definitely ones that will continue to raise the league’s bar over the years - but putting either one as the standard for goalkeeping in MLS right now is selling the league needlessly short. Instead, here are six goalkeepers with better cases for taking the award home.
- Nick Rimando - MLS needs to pay for its sins and give the award to the league’s best goalkeeper ever, who has been a runner up for four years straight. It would be more absurd to not give him the award this year than it was to give it to Donovan Ricketts in 2013.
- Jake Gleeson - Annnd if they’re not going to do that, the only other worthy candidate is Gleeson. Even if Portland misses the playoffs, you can’t ignore Gleeson's contribution to the Timbers’ season, basically saving them half a goal every game.
- Joe Bendik - Bendik is playing smart, conservative goalkeeping and getting back to the form he had a couple years ago. OCSC could probably run a tighter shift in the back but Bendik has held his own in 2016.
- Bill Hamid - Similar to Blake’s situation with the excess of highlight reel saves but in this case, Hamid has actually limited the mistakes. The main knock on Hamid is that he has missed so many games this year. However, the media loves him anyway so it may not matter at the end of the year.
- David Ousted - Up and down, up and down. When he’s on, he’s great, but this year feels very two steps forward, one step back with Ousted.
- Tyler Deric - Yeah, yeah, yeah Houston is in last but Deric is playing like he doesn't check the standings. His season will fade into oblivion but if he can stay healthy, he’ll push for GOTY in 2017.