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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.