While the first week was a lot of fun for almost every single MLS goalkeeper, the second week did not recapture the magic. We're still in the positives on good/bad plays from the goalkeeper pool, but there is definitely room for improvement heading into the third week.
There are technically more than five plays here but I grouped them into five categories to cheat you into reading more about goalkeepers.
Check out last week's Five Plays to learn even more about goalkeepers!
1. The Right and Wrong Way to Play Out of the Back
It's common for a goalkeeper to play an open teammate atop the 18 on a goal kick, like Howard does here. But for every time a goalkeeper plays short out of the back, he must know where the next pass (and the next next pass) is going. Howard doesn't think that far ahead and the pass returns to him, leading to a weak clearance. 13 seconds later, it's a shot on goal. If you don't know how you're going to play out of the back, you're playing against the odds.
Additionally, goalkeepers must give direction when playing to a teammate under any amount of pressure. If it's a long punt or the teammate has acres of space, it's understandable to stay quiet, but Howard has been quiet this season in helping his defenders play out of space. Look at these two images of Stefan Frei and Tim Howard. On the left, Frei has just rolled the ball out and is immediately pointing where to make the next pass. Even before his teammate receives it, Frei has shouted and pointed out the next move. (It's like playing FIFA, but in real life!) If Frei doesn't do this, his teammate must turn, pick his head up, survey the field, decide what to do, then play the ball. Instead, Frei has already revealed the answer to him.
In the contrasting image, Howard has swung the ball to his left but doesn't make a peep. Not surprisinginly, it's a turnover from 30 yards out and a chance on goal.
2. Protect Yourself
On a slotted ball, a goalkeeper should take his first step at a sharp angle to cut off the pass for two reasons. First, this not only protects himself by avoiding a collision, but it also makes it impossible for the striker to get to the ball first. Unfortunately Blake's play is a great example of what happens when you dive into a striker, instead in front of. Sometimes a goalkeeper has to go face-first into a battle, but this isn't one of those times. While some blame has gone to the Toronto FC player, Blake is equally in control to avoid the situation and keep both parties safe.
It's hard to be critical on a play when someone injuries himself but it's also a good learning point for young goalkeepers: never go to your knees. For those that remember Clint Dempsey's gift of a goal against England's Robert Green in the 2010 World Cup, anchoring your knee to the ground removes any chance for adjustment on a play. Even more importantly, going to your knees is it's incredibly unsafe. The jamming of knees into the ground can be dangerous in itself, but also when a goalkeeper anchors himself to the ground, he doesn't allow his body to bail on a play when it needs to. Here, Alvbage needs to be able to "bend and not break" on the collision from his teammate. Instead he is rooted like a tree and the cleats up tackle on his leg lands firm. If Alvbage employs a K shape, or just stays on his feet, he can probably roll out of this challenge unharmed. It's an unfortunate play, but one that goalkeepers must be aware of.
It's a great job by Steffen to cut out the pass, but again, this isn't a scenario where a goalkeeper has to put his body on the line. He keeps his head high and not behind his hands. It's an easy adjustment and a careless mistake. The Houston striker isn't even trying to make a serious attempt on the ball and he still shakes up Steffen. Steffen needs to protect his body (specifically his head, in this case) if he wants to stay in the league longer than a couple years.
3. When You Don't Want to Be Moving Forward
To succeed in MLS, you have to be good on 1v1s. Sometimes that means cutting down the angle quickly and other times that means being patient. In this play, Irwin can't cover the space. (To be fair, it's easy to say that now.) In deciding on whether to attack or not, the main reason for Irwin to stay on his line is the awkwardness of the ball's bounce. The more the ball is bouncing towards the striker, the easier it is for the goalkeeper to read the shot. Even if it is volleyed here, I think Irwin has a better chance at reacting to that, as opposed to trying to close down the space, which speed isn't Irwin's strength. If he stays back, maybe he can notice the slow header and get a fingertip on the ball to send it wide.
Frei gives us a great example of what can happen when you're patient. How many times have we seen a goalkeeper just rush out and try to starfish-save the header? Too many times. It's not the cleanest catch here but he makes it work.
4. They're Breakdance Fighting!
Diop following suit from last week's trend of "doing whatever it takes to make the save." While some may point to his positioning being a problem, I'm alright with it in this case. There's a big danger of having too much movement and not being able to cover the near post because of it. So I think this is a fair excuse on being "out of position". However I would like to see him drive his front leg a little more to cover the goal but it's the sweep-the-leg move that catches my eye. He doesn't hold on to the shot so he immediately finds a way to get the ball out. It's not textbook, but whatever it takes, do it.
On a side note, Brad Friedel with a great line on the live feed, “If you talk about embellishment, I think Diop has embellished this a bit.” It's hard to disagree here.
5. Can I Ask a Question?
The opening goal for Chicago was a result of remarkable refereeing. It looks like a pass to an offside player, except it wasn't a pass at all, as the replays show. Rimando is in an awkward place, as the defense has stopped altogether. Like the veteran he is, Rimando tries to play a mind game with Nikolic and get the call that isn't there. If Rimando can fool Nikolic into not finishing the play, then he ups his odds on making the save. It doesn't work here, but don't confuse this for thinking Rimando wasn't aware on what was going on. When your back is up against the wall, you have to get creative to get yourself out.