Goalkeepers Discussing Goalkeepers

Far too often commentators make sweeping critiques of what a goalkeeper should or shouldn't have done during the game. Viewers are subjected to astute observations like "Nothing the goalkeeper could do on that one!" or "The goalkeeper should have done better". The position's intricate details call for more analysis than generalizations. How should the goalkeeper react next time? If it is such an easy play, why did the goalkeeper mess it up? A poor man doesn't tell a rich man how to run his company and a field player better have some more constructive feedback than rolling his eyes at the goalie when the ball ends up in the back of the net.

I reached out to five other goalkeepers: Joe Cannon, Justin Bryant, Clint Irwin, Josh Stankus, and Benjamin Yates and picked their brain about modern goalkeeping. Some are more known than others but they're all very familiar with the position. Each one provided great insight to goalkeeping. If you liked a comment, or wanted to shoot them some more questions about playing goalie, you can find them on the interwebs with the links provided below.

 

First off, introduce yourself to the readers. How did you get into playing goalkeeper and where can people find you online now?

Joe Cannon: I got started goalkeeping because our U12 goalkeeper left to France right the before State Cup. I made a cameo for State Cup and we won the tournament.  After that we went to Regionals in New Mexico. We ended up losing in the semi-finals but that was my first taste.

The next year I went back to playing in the field but we never had a consistent goalkeeper and my coach always thought I could do a better job. During my U13 year, an assistant coach spent some individual time with me and I was hooked. About a year or two later, my coach told me I could possibly get a scholarship if I kept training so I dedicated myself to that goal. There was no MLS at the time so I literally just thought about how cool a scholarship would be.

I have a blog that I write about once in awhile. It’s about young soccer players and their parents and advice for those people who don’t have a clue about who to turn to. I hate it when people take advantage of parents looking to do the right thing for their kids. I don’t mind people charging parents, but it annoys me when they are not good coaches, but use marketing and sales tactics to enhance their pocketbook and not help the child accordingly. Feel free to check it out: goalkeeperguru.blogspot.com. I'm still finding my voice so any help would be appreciated in spreading the word and maybe helping me with what types of content people are looking for. [Joe can be found on Twitter @JoeCannonGK1.]

Justin Bryant: I started around U12, same as Joe. In my case, I just didn’t trust anyone else to do it. I played up front at first, running and sweating, desperate to win, and it would kill me when our keeper would just wave a hand at a shot as it went in. So I volunteered, and loved it.

have a blog that got recognized by The Guardian the other year as being not too bad. I don’t update that often, but it’s blamethekeeper.blogspot.com. I’m a pretty active writer and have pieces about goalkeeping in XI Quarterly and the next issue of The Howler. I supplied some quotes about Joe Hart for Rabona Magazine. My second book, ‘Small Time: A Life in the Football WIlderness’ came out in 2013. It’s about my playing career. I tried to frankly address the anxiety and phobias I dealt with back then (completely unrelated to ‘pre-game nerves’ or anything like that). I’ve been in coaching for years, and am currently Director of Goalkeeping at NC State. If you’re wondering how that’s different from goalkeeper coach: we have two, and I’m the senior one. I’m also the head coach for two club teams with Triangle Futbol Club.

Clint Irwin: I got into goalkeeping when our main goalkeeper broke his wrist at the U14 level. I was the on again- off again backup goalkeeper so I normally played in the field but I had to step in since our main goalkeeper was hurt. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it back into the field after that!

I’ve written a bit at various online outlets, not so much about goalkeeping but more on general soccer and sport topics. I’m much more active (too active?) on Twitter. You can follow me @ClintIrwin.

I must say I enjoy reading Joe’s post on his blog. He’s got some great advice for young goalkeepers and old alike. Also, I purchased Justin’s book ‘Small Time’ but I have to say I had to put it down half way through as it mirrored so many feelings I’ve had about the position as well. That’s a compliment, as it was bringing some of the negative feelings back that you have to block out when you’re playing. I hope that makes sense, Justin. It truly is a great read, just not for someone who’s still playing.

Justin: Thanks Clint - that does make sense. It’s a dark read for sure; that was my reality. The good news is you’ve already had a better career than I did!

Benjamin Yates: I started around age 13, after I hit my first major growth spurt and shot up to 6’1”. Up until that point, I played in the midfield. A coach took me aside one day at practice and said, “Have you ever played goalkeeper? Because I think you’d be good at it.” That little bit of encouragement was all it took. I never looked back.

I’ve published nothing of note. I did a bit of blogging a couple years back, but certainly nothing close to Justin’s level. When I’m not teaching high-school English, I spend my time coaching, reading, or watching games (live and on TV). I’m also fairly active on Twitter: @thinkingkeeper.

Josh Stankus: I became a goalie when trying out for my varsity team. Our starting goalie was out of town for a preseason game, and the coach asked if anyone could play. I had played in the with friends, so I thought I would give it a try. I started that game, and the rest is history as they say. Once I got my first big adrenaline rush from looking at the stunned face of an attacker after a big save, I was hooked. 

I am a co-host on The Total Soccer Show. We are based out of Richmond VA (and have been named the 2nd best sports show in town), but we focus on the US National team and its players for the most part. I am also fairly active on twitter @JoshStankus

Bill Vegas: I started playing the position because I was really good at falling down but eventually learned it was a little more than that. I played through high school and somehow managed a year in college. Since then I’ve been writing about American goalkeepers at www.everybodysoccer.com and if you're reading this now then you've probably found my site. Like everyone else, you can see me tweet away @letskillrobots.

 

Oliver Kahn said, "Goalkeepers need an element of insanity. Who else would stand there & allow people to shoot balls at his face & still think it's great?" So first question, are you crazy?

Joe: *laughs* Definitely. It takes an interesting person to want to get hit with the ball.  On top of this, think about all the alone time I spend during games and practice. You have to talk to yourself a lot and it becomes such a mental game. On the field, I would say I have a much different personality that off of it. When I was younger I used to not be able to separate being competitive off and on the field; I couldn’t shut it off. Life experiences and old age have made it much easier now.

Justin: I think I’m the sanest person I know! But I do sometimes go along with this general idea. It’s just so unforgiving at times. I’ve played games where I had nothing to do but make one save, failed to make it, and we lost. Then I had to spend five days thinking about it before the next game. You do have to wonder about anyone who willingly puts themself through that.

Josh: I think this is a bit overplayed. What a goalie really needs is an overabundance of confidence. This is where the insanity part might be true. They must stay confident even if their form is well below par. 

Ben: The first keepers I fell in love with were the crazy ones: Higuita, Schmeichel, Chilavert, Kahn. When I started playing, I modeled my on-field behavior after themeverything I did was aggressive, over-the-top, loud. Eventually I realized that didn’t fit my personality. I wasn’t being authentic. My models changed to “calmer” keepers like van der Sar and Dida and Buffon. So yes, I guess we’re all a bit crazy to do what we do, but that craziness doesn’t have to show up on the field.

Clint: I am not crazy. I don’t think anyone would describe me as such. But there has to be a small element of pleasure derived from the physical punishment you take in day in and day out. Like Josh says, you have to be a little bit insane to “enjoy” the mental intensity you experience every day, every game. The margins are so small, and the criticism so sharp, that you almost have to be insanely calm to not let it get to you.

Bill: I think Oliver Kahn assumes everyone is as, let’s say, intense, as he was. But I will say every goalkeeper I’ve ever met is a of odd ball.

 

Everyone has been fed a diet of ‘narrow the angle’ for decades, without much thought given to how that reduces reaction time.
— Justin Bryant

 

What is the most common error a goalkeeper makes today?

Ben: At the youth level, I see a lot of horrible decision-making when distributing the ball. Bill knows that I’m all about possession-based soccer, and far too many keepers don’t know how to help their team keep possession. They haven’t been coached to think about movement, spacing, awareness. When they get the ball, they just boot it as far as they can, or they choose the wrong method of distribution, or they pass to the wrong person at the wrong time. It puts the team under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

Bill: I grind my teeth when I see a goalkeeper rush out on 1v1s and immediately going to the ground. I understand closing the angle but more times than not a goalkeeper gives away the goal instead of protecting it. Maybe they trust themselves to make that tight save or think they’re better off by rushing out but if a striker is paying attention at all he can beat a careless oncoming goalkeeper.

Joe: I saw your answer and rushing out is a common error. Done properly in leagues like MLS I think it’s a very good strategy. Most of the forwards in our league don’t have the composure or poise to find solutions when faced with a goalkeeper heavily closing their angle and space.

This is a hard question because I watch professional goalkeepers and the biggest mistakes they make are probably guessing when they shouldn’t or overplaying the near post. At the pro levels, goalkeepers know they won’t lose their jobs if they stay consistent. Being less aggressive and looking like they give up a “good goal” happens a lot.

At the other levels, I would have to say that i think the most common error is trying to make a play when they don’t have to. You see this all the time. When I spent time in Europe, there was so much more pressure on defenders to do their jobs. With good backs, goalkeepers don’t have to make difficult decisions to come out. My best year was in Colorado because Nat Borchers and Richie Kotschau were honest defenders who won tons of balls in the air, but also challenged the attackers heading the ball which made my job so much easier.

A lot of this happens because goalkeepers are not involved a ton in the play. When you are younger, you want to make an impact and do something notable in the game. No one ever talks about the time you decided to stay on your line and the defender clears it away. They talk about how you came out, you owned the box, your presence.

As a pro, you know that results are the only thing that matters and at the end of the day you will keep your job if you make good decisions

Justin: Keepers coming off their line needlessly when the attacking player is at an angle or a long way from goal and being closed down by a defender drives me crazy. Anyone who follows me on twitter would know this. It happens all the time at the highest levels. I think everyone has been fed a diet of ‘narrow the angle’ for decades, without much thought given to how that reduces reaction time. If a striker is clean in on goal? Yes, come meet him. If he’s chasing a ball across the penalty box, going away from goal, with a defender a half-step behind - no. I don’t see the upside. Stay big, make him beat you with a special shot. Instead, I’m always seeing little toe-pokes go slowly bobbling into the net, because the keeper has rushed out and been unable to react what it actually a pretty poor shot.  

I agree with Joe that this happens because keepers aren’t involved in the play that much and are sometimes over-eager to ‘make an impact’ or ‘dominate the box.’ 

Clint: A lot of good responses on this one. I think all of those are common errors made.  I wouldn’t say it’s an error to be aggressive, but you must, like Justin says, pick your spots. Too many goalkeepers are content to stay on their line or stay back and not take risks and not make glaring mistakes. But this position isn’t a position of fear. You must be confident and take calculated risks or else you’re just a shot-stopper who reacts rather than being proactive and stopping shots before they happen.  

 

What is the most understated save, responsibility, or aspect of a goalkeeper today?

Bill: I love a good low save against momentum. When the striker is making a lateral push with the ball and shoots against the way he’s going, it’s so hard to get down for that save, especially to take that step and extend past the post. It’s very tough to get keep your balance completely even when you’re moving to one side.

Joe: Your answer is probably correct.  I think reaction saves are always difficult.  I feel the most underrated saves come from goalkeepers who trust their positioning and reflexes to make saves rather than guessing or diving early and just getting a piece of the ball.  

I would also say that distribution is a tad understated, but more recognized after Van Der Sar played for Manchester United. I would also say that goalkeepers who communicate don’t get enough credit either.

On the psychological side, confidence is a huge thing for all goalkeepers. If you’re a goalkeeper coach, remember that you would rather have your goalkeeper who thinks he's prepared when he isn’t, as opposed to doesn’t think he’s prepared when he is. During the game you are all alone and it’s going to be your thoughts which dictate how you play a lot of the time. (as well as your training habits).

Justin: I agree with Joe and would add handling - actually catching shots. The modern ball moves a great deal in the air, and keepers often are forced to parry. I’m impressed any time a keeper manages to hold a well-hit shot these days.

Ben: I second Justin’s answer, but I’d also add distribution, which Joe mentioned. If a goalkeeper misplaces a goal kick or screws up a pass, everyone’s a critic. Yet no one notices when they send it cleanly, over and over, to a teammate who’s 20 or 40 or 75 yards away. People take it for granted, but there’s a definite skill there.

Clint: I appreciate a good held save as well, Justin, but it’s very, very difficult these days.  The biggest area that youth goalkeepers can improve on and what I think is a bit underrated is rebound control. If you can’t hold the shot, where do you put your rebounds? Are you able to parry wide, away from onrushing forwards? A shot from an angle across the goal with a forward rushing back post: can you parry to an area where there are no offensive players (it might be central)? I’m impressed by the deliberate placing of parried shots.

Josh: Because it is impossible for people watching at the game or on TV to actually hear how a keeper commands his defenders, I think it is often overlooked. All people ever say is "So-and-so is vocal," but being vocal isn’t necessarily a good thing. The noise a keeper makes has to be productive otherwise no matter how loudly it is said it won’t help.

 

I’ve been told 10+ times that I wasn’t good enough for whatever level I was trialling for and, it’ll probably happen more. But you can’t let that get you down.
— Clint Irwin

 

What intangible aspect of goalkeeping is necessary to make the jump to becoming a professional?

Joe: Persistence and the ability to hold yourself accountable for every goal.  It’s the only way you will learn.  Also, just sticking with it and knowing that the harder you work, the luckier you will get.  There have been so many good goalkeepers who give up after not making the team the first time around. This day and age, too many goalkeepers refuse to play in the USL or NASL and just go to a day job.  I started out in the old A-league and it was the best decision I ever made.  I got games, experience, and most importantly, my confidence.

Justin: Thick skin and no short-term memory. You’re going to make mistakes, get overlooked, slighted, abused, and yelled at. You have to be able to forget it immediately and keep playing and training with confidence. I went to England at 22, at a time you could count the Americans in Europe on one hand, and played at the scrappiest, least-glamorous level there ever was - the English Non-Leagues of the 80s. I felt like the worst goalkeeper in the world at times in training, but took my chance when I got to play in a league game. I’d also add that you have to be an opportunist and a little bit self-centered, even selfish, about your approach to your career. There are way more good goalkeepers out there than there are roster spots.

Ben: Having never played at that level, I can’t speak to this personally. But from coaching and talking to people who have, I’d say hunger. Or “persistence,” to use Joe’s words. There’s only one spot on the field for a keeper. If you’re not willing to work incredibly hard when you’re not starting, or if you think you’re too good to struggle or sit the bench or fight for opportunities, then even if you make it into the professional game, you won’t last long.

Clint: Everyone is right on this one. Persistence. Confidence. I’ve been told 10+ times that I wasn’t good enough for whatever level I was trialling for and, it’ll probably happen more. But you can’t let that get you down. You have to possess the confidence to say: “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m going to prove him wrong.” In the end, those experiences toughen you up. You think a mistake on the field is tougher than what you go through for years in the lower leagues?

 

Goalkeepers are typically regarded as having the makeup to be good coaches. Is this accurate?

Clint: I wouldn’t say they have the makeup of a good coach. We just said they were completely insane a few questions ago. I think they are in a position where they have the ability (and time) to evaluate the whole field, to see what works and what doesn’t. What’s difficult though, is implementing that to the training pitch. In addition, there’s a stigma against goalkeepers as head coaches that hopefully will go away. 

Justin: There might be some truth to this, but I think ‘makeup’ is a very small aspect of success in coaching. It’s more about constant education and application of what you’ve learned. I think a big problem with coaching in the US is that someone does a course or two, and then just coaches that same way forever. The game is constantly evolving. If you want to make a career of it, you can never stop learning. 

Joe: Yes and No.  I think the fact that they have to communicate and think about almost all aspects of the game make them good candidates.  The know what they want with defenders and they know the strategies forwards use and how to combat or enhance them.

There is a little lack of knowledge about the midfield which is obviously critical.  The middle of the park is so hectic and decisions are so difficult for players at the highest level.  Like any other position, it’s really how much they pay attention to the game that will help them
coach.

Ben: I don’t think one’s playing position has much bearing on whether they become a good coach. There’s a host of much more influential qualities. But I do think being a goalkeeper makes you a better goalkeeping coach. Because it’s a totally unique position on the field, the insight and experience that comes from playingno matter what level you were atcan be invaluable when training others.

Bill: I wouldn't know if there are more coaches that were goalkeepers as opposed to another position but I think a big reason why a goalkeeper makes a good coach is because he has to effectively communicate to his defense in split seconds. If the defense is out of sorts, he has to recognize it, know how to fix it, then say it in a way that the defender responds immediately.

 

Is there ever a time getting scored on near post is acceptable?

Joe: If the angle is not too minimal, it’s really no big deal. Also on a cross that comes in quick and the forward comes from your blind spot. I think good goals are scored on the near post like that.

Justin: 100% agree with Joe. It’s just pundit-speak, an easy way to assign blame. I don’t even think the term ‘near post’ is at all relevant unless the striker is shooting from a pretty acute angle.

Josh: If you never ever give up a near post goal, you are over protecting it to the point of giving up more of your goal on the “far” post. It shouldn’t be about protecting one part of the goal over the other.

Clint: If an attacker is moving across the face of the goal with the ball and shoots back to the near post, that’s an incredibly difficult angle for the goalkeeper to face. The attacker can curl to back post or cut back to the near. I don’t think the goalkeeper should be blamed for that.

If you never ever give up a near post goal, you are over protecting it to the point of giving up more of your goal on the ‘far’ post. It shouldn’t be about protecting one part of the goal over the other.
— Josh Stankus

 

Is height a relevant evaluative tool for young and professional goalkeepers?

Josh: Take this with a grain of salt coming from a 5’10” keeper, but height is the worst way to evaluate a young keeper. American soccer seems to do this at all positions too. We love size in kids and squeeze smaller kids who haven’t grown yet. how can you evaluate kids based on size when they aren’t fully mature yet. Once the keepers start to hit late high school years than a scout can start to consider height.

Clint: I’ve seen 5’9 goalkeepers command their box better than 6’5 goalkeepers and vice a versa. It’s not about how big you are, but how big you play. Unfortunately, many evaluators make initial “eye-test” judgments about goalkeepers. The expectation is 6’2+ height and built like a brick house. Iker Casillas doesn’t fit this description. He’d be cut by the “eye-test.” Bottom line should be: can he/she keep the ball out of the net?

Justin: It shouldn’t matter at all at youth levels. At the professional level, exceptionally short keepers are going to struggle in some aspects of the game, but look at someone like Jon Busch: it can be done. As Clint said earlier, more keepers are leaving crosses for their defenders these days anyway. Exceptional height can come with mobility and shot-stopping disadvantages, too. So there’s no reason a sub-six-foot keeper can’t have a great career.

Bill: I'm going to say yes and no. Obviously there’s a minimum height requirement but players can also be too tall. Christian Herrera, a 6’6” U18 goalkeeper, struggled against the Canary Islands recently and I’d say all three goals were related to his height. He has to be taught differently than a 5’10” goalie, or even a 6’3” goalie. All three heights can play the position but they can't be taught the same way and they definitely can't play the same style. A tall man can't play like a short man and vice versa. But I liked what Clint said, if you're good enough, you're good enough.

Joe: I agree with everything that’s been said. Personally, all other things being equal, I prefer tall keepers because I believe that physical presence--whether coming for high balls or facing a PK--can be an advantage in this specific position. But, as Bill mentioned, they frequently have weaknesses that shorter keepers don’t.  Ultimately, height is only one tool--and not the most important one--in evaluating a goalkeeper’s potential.

It is an attribute for professional goalkeepers to be tall, but it is not always as important as people think it is. If goalies are equal in everything else height can make a difference; however, if other skills/attributes are given up for height it isn’t a positive. 

 

What is a goalkeeping stat you would like to see?

Bill: Some combination of shot speed and angle of where the shooter was. I think people would be able to more accurately say “He should have got it” or not if they knew how much time the keeper had to react.

Joe: Great question. Number one, I would like to see a sliding scale of points for the difficulty of keepers saves. I don’t think a keeper should get the same statistical credit for different types of saves. In this sense, goalkeeping is very qualitative and so hard to put into stats.  However, I would reward harder saves more and casual saves less to give a better indication of what kind of night the goalkeeper had.

Justin: I’m going to be the wet blanket on this one: I just don’t think it’s quantifiable. Shot speed and angle, okay - but you also need to factor the spin of the ball, and whether the keeper had a clear view when the shot was struck, and how good his footing was. If I’m standing in three inches of mud, you can’t expect me to have the same reaction speed as a keeper on a perfectly groomed pitch. Is it windy? Is the sun in my face? And for a shot along the ground, the pitch conditions play a role in determining difficulty. I just find it hard to believe someone will come up with a formula that can take all that into account. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong though.

Ben: I was trying to think of a response to this, but then I saw Justin’s answer and it took the wind out of my sails. So yeah… I’d say he’s 100% right on that.

Clint: I’m a fan of all the suggestions above. The current stats we have now don’t give a clear picture of the impact of each goalkeeper. In addition to the ones suggested, I’d like to see someone quantify the actions that prevent scoring opportunities that don’t result in shots. Crosses collected (with range), through balls gathered, low crosses cut out etc.

Josh: Justin is partially right. Right now no stats I can create easily or readily define goalies. There are stats, but we just don’t know them yet. Just like the more advanced stats in baseball (WAR, defensive zone ratings) these things don’t just come about in one revolution. You start somewhere and realize the stat is greatly flawed. Watch it for individuals that stand out in different ways (positive/negative) and tweak the system. 

The first thing I would like to see is the percentage of saves a goalie has going to a particular direction. Are they great at going right/left or up/down? Secondly what body parts the goalie uses the most to make the saves. Do they love their feet? Do they favor using the right hand over the left? Unfortunately all the stats I just named might actually help attackers know where to go. Damn attacking players! 

 

Bill: So, Justin, how do we judge a good goalkeeper? I have my reserves about goals against averages and save percentages but surely we can quantify it somehow, right?

Justin: For me it remains a highly subjective and very unscientific thing. It really just comes down to the eye test. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone else using stats or other metrics to judge keepers, and if we’re going to do it, we may as well have some advanced ones, like you guys are suggesting. I just don’t know how much attention I would pay to them. At one point fairly late into last season, Gerhard Tremmel had the highest save percentage in the Premier League. With all due respect to Gerhard, I would suggest that that displays the limits of that particular stat.

Josh: For me right now, until better stats arrive, the first thing you base a goalie on is how few errors he makes. I believe that goalie errors have a bigger negative impact on a team than great plays have a positive impact. I tend to think the next big thing top level professional goalies on is how well they come out. More importantly how under control or poised they are when they come out.  Once a goalie is playing at the highest level the ability to make amazing saves repeatedly has already been proven. 

Most of the forwards in our league don’t have the composure or poise to find solutions when faced with a goalkeeper heavily closing their angle and space.
— Joe Cannon

Which goalkeeper situation, either club or country, is the most intriguing to you at the moment?

Joe: Country: Belgium. Courtrois and Mignolet. I think Courtrois is possibly the best keeper in the world. Guzan and Howard are interesting, but it’s Tim’s job this world cup in my opinion. Domestically, I think Blake and McMath, Knighton and Shuttleworth, even Kronberg and Gruenebaum. But those positions are only intriguing because they are not settled yet. Nothing like Rodriguez and Casillas thats for sure. Overseas Jaaskelainen just lost his job at West Ham, but I only know that because of fantasy league. *laughs*

Justin: Brazil are hosting the World Cup and there is still uncertainty about who will be in goal, though in the end I think it’ll be Cesar. Courtois for me is a clear step above Mignolet.

Ben: Those are good ones! I think Julio Cesar will be Brazil’s choice this summer, but I prefer Jefferson. I think Courtois is better than Mignolet, although I wouldn’t go as far as Joe!

For me, Neuer is the best keeper in the world right now, hands down. I can’t stop watching what Guardiola is doing with him at Bayern. There are moments when he’s literally in midfield, helping his team keep possession or pressing opponents. It’s Goalkeeping 2.0.  It’s like watching the position evolve in real time.

Bill: I’m really MLS-focused so I’ll go with Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum. If Gruenebaum is healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind he can start but Sporting Kansas City look committed to giving Kronberg an honest shake. And of course Columbus' situation is interesting with bringing in Steve Clark after Matt Lampson finished the season.


What is the biggest difference between Tim Howard v. Brad Guzan?


 Photo by ISIPhotos.com

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

Joe: I think Tim is a tad more aggressive which give him less time to react. He has great size, athleticism and reflexes so you combine that with a sharp angle and he covers a ton of the goal. I think Brad is a big more consistent with his distribution and just needs a few more years in that top level to reach the point where Tim is at. The biggest difference right now is the experience.

Justin: Tim is a classic; I have all the respect in the world for him. Great athleticism and reflexes, slightly unorthodox at times (goes behind his goal line quite a bit). He’s not gifted with his feet. I love how positive Brad is with balls into the box. Very few keepers really try to come for balls into the box these days, much less claim them. As Joe says, Tim is much more experienced.

Ben: Bill, you wrote a great piece a couple of weeks ago about Howard’s terrible decision-making when coming off the line. That’s been a weakness throughout his career. Tim is much more athletic, but Guzan is smarter and makes better decisions. If he continues the way he’s going, I think Brad could be the better keeper in the long run.

Bill: Thanks Ben. I think it comes down to mentality. Howard wants to insert himself in the game a bit more than Guzan while Guzan wants to let the game come to him. Everything in moderation, sure, so I can’t say one is “more right” but going into Brazil, I'd be surprised to see Guzan start.

 

What does Iker Casillas need to succeed? Will his form ever return to where it once was?

Joe: *laughs* I’m not going near this. If I knew the answer I would apply it to myself. I think his form will be fine come June but I don’t anticipate Spain winning in South America.

Justin: In a normal situation, he’d go to another club. But he is so ingrained into the culture at Madrid that it’s hard to imagine that happening. Unfortunately for him, a couple of managers have come along who simply prefer the other guy. It’s a good example of how reputation doesn’t mean much at the highest level, or at least with managers like Mourinho and Ancelotti.

Ben: I’m not sure. He’s doing well in Champions League and Copa Del Rey. I don’t believe his form is good enough to displace Diego Lopez, but he’s not playing poorly by any means.

If a goalkeeper misplaces a goal kick or screws up a pass, everyone’s a critic. Yet no one notices when they send it cleanly, over and over, to a teammate who’s 20 or 40 or 75 yards away. People take it for granted, but there’s a definite skill there.
— Benjamin Yates


In fifteen to twenty years, how will the goalkeeper evolve? Or will he?

Clint: With the way the ball has become lighter and faster, crosses are coming in at a unbelievable speeds and with accuracy. It’s harder and harder for goalkeeper to get to them so I think we’re going to see many goalkeepers staying back and letting defenders deal with them. We already see it in the EPL. Not many guys are coming for crosses, and the fact is, you just can’t get there. There’s too many bodies. 

Justin: If the ball keeps getting lighter and more ‘perfectly round,’ and thus moves even more in the air, we may see a return to prominence of pure shot-stoppers. We’re already seeing lighter, leaner keepers now (De Gea, Courtois, Lloris, Sirigu etc), compared to the bulkier, cross-collecting machines of the 80s and 90s. Footballing/outfield skills will surely be more and more requisite. You can’t play out from the back comfortably if your keeper struggles with the ball at his feet.

Joe: I think size will be much bigger and the goalkeeper will be more like an outfield player than just a goalkeeper. Teams are already seeing the benefits of playing with a goalkeeper who is comfortable with their feet.

Bill: I hope we don’t have a return to lobbing it to the big man up top. That’s my biggest fear. I don’t think it’ll happen but every time I see a team resorting to it it worries me. If that is the case goalkeepers will have to be even more reckless and aggressive in the air.

Ben: It’s hard to say. As I said earlier, I’m intrigued by how the position is evolving at Bayern under Pep, where Neuer is involved much higher up the field. Higuita used to do something similar for Colombiaoccasionally with disastrous consequences! You need the perfect combination of coach, keeper, and squad to make it work. Personally, I think most coaches will always consider the tactic “too risky” for it to become mainstream, but who knows.

Another law change could also cause a major shift. FIFA instituted the “back pass rule” in 1992, and goalkeepers started playing with their feet more. Everything we’re seeing today is a result of that. A few years ago, Blatter talked about making the goals bigger. Platini wants a sin-bin. I don’t know where we’ll end up. At the end of the day though, the keeper’s objective will always be the same: keep the ball out of the net.