MLS Goalkeepers or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BOB / by Bill Reno

By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)

It seems like every week I see multiple goalkeepers launch a hopeful goal kick to a teammate close to the sideline, only to overhit it by about twenty yards. While fans may appreciate the invitation to be a part of the game, they’d rather not see their goalkeeper concede possession so easily. MLS goalkeeping standards aren’t the same as La Liga, but surely there is some standard, right?
I accessed the secret scrolls of passing statistics dating back to the 2015 season to see just how often MLS goalkeepers launch a ball straight out of bounds. For this exercise, we’ll be using the stat BOB, which stands for for “Ball Out of Bounds” because having a stat acronym with two O’s would jump ASA’s rating from G to PG and I couldn't bring myself to be the sole reason for that. We don't have the data to separate punts, throws, passes, and goal kicks but I think this still addresses the topic at hand. As such, the below BOB pulls in all 'keeper distribution, be it a goal kick launched towards midfield or a toss to a nearby teammate a foot away.
Over a total of 1587 BOB in 1622 games puts the average BOB/gm for a goalkeeper at .978.

Donovan Ricketts1890231351.670.1515
David Bingham724511551141.420.0987
Matt Van Oekel3923261.380.1875
Tyler Deric4012706611.370.0864
Eric Kronberg3985461.360.1111
Jeff Attinella1530207221.290.1063
Matt Lampson1350169191.270.1124
Zac Macmath2160270301.250.1111
Chris Konopka1890202261.240.1287
Brian Rowe3935523541.240.1033
Brad Knighton1423223191.20.0852
Sean Johnson4950632661.20.1044
Josh Saunders5940739791.20.1069
Jaime Penedo1440171191.190.1111
John McCarthy1080137141.170.1022
Dan Kennedy1555173201.160.1156
Cody Cropper1170115151.150.1304
Clint Irwin4790650611.150.0938
Luis Marin7205391.130.1698
Evan Bush6711809811.090.1001
Jesse Gonzalez2250280271.080.0964
Tim Melia5670779681.080.0873
Alec Kann1710181201.050.1105
Bobby Shuttleworth5462627600.990.0957
Travis Worra1292203140.980.069
Tally Hall2064209220.960.1053
Tim Howard2160189230.960.1217
Andrew Dykstra8689590.930.0947
Zack Steffen1170111120.920.1081
Jon Busch1080121110.920.0909
Nick Rimando5638703570.910.0811
Joe Willis3175507310.880.0611
Chris Seitz3330301320.860.1063
Stefan Frei6794795650.860.0818
Troy Perkins3164930.850.0612
Steve Clark5940504560.850.1111
Joe Bendik5310606500.850.0825
Brian Sylvestre1080139100.830.0719
David Ousted6863830630.830.0759
Andre Blake4500522390.780.0747
Jake Gleeson3280401280.770.0698
Alex Bono2230170190.770.1118
Clement Diop6307750.710.0649
Jorge Bava7204750.630.1064
Paolo Tornaghi1551510.580.0667
Bill Hamid4950658310.560.0471
Adam Larsen Kwarasey3560410220.560.0537
Luis Robles7290733450.560.0614
John Alvbage2221810.410.0556
Rais M'Bolhi4505320.40.0377
Spencer Richey9010000

The table only includes goalkeepers with over one game appearance or with at least one 2017 start, leaving University of Washington product Spencer Richey as the only goalkeeper in the group to not place a ball straight out of bounds.

Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s a ton of assessment to make from the list. If a goalkeeper chucks a ball to the sideline, at the very least his team can gather themselves to defend. Plus, for goalkeepers who have imposing forwards up front, it’s easier to launch a ball up the field with confidence than it is if your teammate is Chris Wondolowski. Although Donovan Ricketts’ 1.67 is really impressive, considering he is a two time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Speaking of…

MLS Goalkeeper Power Rankings

  1. Tim Melia - Not only are Sporting Kansas City first in the West, but Melia is getting the media attention he deserves. He’s outplaying his peers by a mile so as long as SKC stay in the top three, he’s the frontrunner for MLS GOTY.

  2. Luis Robles - While the Red Bulls have had a polarizing season thus far, I’ve been really impressed with Robles’ game. He’s handled awkward situations with poise - something he didn’t do last year - and even though they’re sitting 9th in PPG in the East, I don’t think anyone is counting them out for a playoff run.

  3. Alex Bono - I’m going left field on this one mainly because the rest of the pack have been so streaky. He’s turned in two stellar performances this month (Orlando, Minnesota) and has managed to keep Clint Irwin on the bench. He still has some aspects of his game he needs to clean up (namely knowing how to handle any situation that isn’t a straight forward shot) but he’s finally starting to show why everyone was so high on him coming out of college.

  4. Joe Willis - Despite Houston being 0-5 on the road, I’m not worried about Willis’ performances. It’s a long season and if they can stay hot at home, they’ll be fine. I’d still like to see Tyler Deric receive a few more shots at goal, whether with Houston or someone else. In the meantime, Willis has no qualms about being a top MLS starter.

  5. Jake Gleeson - He’s not turning in the performances that we saw in 2016, when he was the only goalkeeper worth talking about. Offseason troubles and staying healthy have surely weighed Gleeson down and unfortunately this weekend doesn't offer an easy test with an away trip to Seattle. There’s no better way to help get his season back on track than a solid outing against their rivals, although the reverse might be just as true.

  6. Joe Bendik - How the mighty have fallen. Consistency has been Bendik’s Achilles’ heel his entire career and it’s striking again. Orlando are just as relevant as any other top team in the east going into the summer so Bendik isn't going away anytime soon. That said, Bendik’s last two months have been completely forgettable and have undone early season progress.

  7. Brian Rowe - Do I feel confident with Rowe in goal yet? Not quite. Is he turning in good performances? Absolutely. I don’t think he’s captured the art of the chaotic goalkeeper as Melia has, although every week we see a glimmer of the promising goalkeeper Rowe could be. We say it every year, but 2017 might be Rowe’s breakout year.

  8. Matt Lampson - I’m sure it helps having Bastian Schweinsteiger join the squad but Lampson has conceded only three goals in four starts, earning 10 points in the four games. It’s easy to exaggerate Lampson’s influence with a World Cup winner now on the team, but he’s respectably held his own in goal.