Adam Larsen Kwarasey

Why MLS Goalkeeping in 2016 Has Been So Dang Bad by Bill Reno

The slow start for MLS goalkeepers has now dragged into its third month. Some goalkeepers can’t stay healthy and others are being bench simply for not playing well. Some are even resorting to saving shots with their face. “Saves of the Week” highlights are more of a sigh of a relief that the ball didn't trickle in on each shot. It’s getting so bad, field players are being put into goal. Essentially it’s a goalkeeper apocalypse now and it’s safe to say that in three years the landscape is going to look much different. A minority of teams are - or should be - confident in their goalkeeping situation. Most MLS teams are caught in the bind of having a goalkeeper that isn't sinking the ship but they aren't exactly thrilled with, yet have a goalkeeper that they’re reluctant to completely turn the position over to.

Already we've seen eight teams use two goalkeepers this year, only a few of them out of choice instead of having their hand forced. Despite having an incredibly small and quiet fan base, Portland has switched from one international to another, going from Adam Kwarasey to Jake Gleeson. The decision may seem obvious to the dozens of fans but Kwarasey was brought on, in part, to be a big force in the box. Portland is one of the most crossed on teams in MLS and Kwarasey was supposed to be a large answer to that. Admittedly he is strong in the air and while I wouldn't say he’s the best in the league with crosses, it makes sense why Portland liked him. However, when your goalkeeper can only duck under a free kick and mistakes start to pile up, the backup is in a tough spot. While he’s 6’4”, Jake Gleeson doesn't bring the physical presence in the air that Kwarasey does. So now the coaches are weighing two sides of the scale. One on end, Gleeson isn't as good as Kwarasey at certain levels while the other side’s argument is pretty much summed up as “He couldn't do any worse.” When the backup is better than the starter, clearly it’s an easy decision to make. But when you’re dealing with a much different goalkeeper - one that wasn't really in the plans at this time - whose highest level of consistent play is USL, it’s tough to rewrite the game plan.

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2015 in MLS Goalkeepers, and looking ahead to 2016 by Bill Reno

2015 was an up and down year for MLS goalkeeping. We had some surprise seasons from Stefan Frei, Tyler Deric, and David Ousted, all of which had question marks going into 2015 but clearly did work during the offseason to prepare themselves for the year. Now moving forward, each club’s fan base is excited for their goalkeeper and is probably calling them “one of the best in the league”. Jesse Gonzalez matched the young blood theme in Dallas and gave a great performance against Seattle that went into penalties. David Bingham earned praise for finally taking over the starting role in San Jose and Old Man Saunders led the league in saves with New York City. Even Brek Shea notched himself a great save for the season.

Tim Melia returned from the abyss to start for Sporting Kansas City and won perhaps the most ambiguous MLS award: Comeback Player of the Year. But most notably, Luis Robles won Goalkeeper of the Year after winning the Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls. He was rewarded with a USMNT call up and hopes to add on to his single cap with the upcoming friendlies.

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