2019 MLS Goalkeeper Roundup

cover photo belongs to Lindsey Wasson

Returning from last year’s roundup, we’re back with another edition of “Where Are They Now?” MLS teams are scrambling to get their rosters ready for 2019, with typically includes anywhere from 3-6 goalkeepers, depending on how much they value their USL connections. Updates will come periodically, typically based off of recent transactions, scrimmages, or any breaking news.

After rosters start getting settled, we’ll include a “Projected N3Y Grade” (Projected Next Three Years Grade) where I shed some light on whether the team’s ship is sailing towards smooth or rocky waters.

2018/2019 Goalkeeper Grades

Columbus Crew A / A-
Los Angeles FC A-

Seattle Sounders B+
Sporting Kansas City B+
Real Salt Lake B
Portland Timbers B-
Cincinnati FC B- / F
New England Revolution B- / B-
Montreal Impact B-

Houston Dynamo C+ / B+
Atlanta United C+ / B+
Philadelphia C
Toronto FC C
Chicago Fire C
New York Red Bulls C- / C+
Vancouver Whitecaps C- / C+

Orlando City D+
Minnesota United D+
New York City FC D+ / C
FC Dallas D
DC United D / D
San Jose Earthquakes D- / D+
Los Angeles Galaxy D- / C-

Colorado Rapids F / F

Various League News

Dec 20: TopDrawerSoccer (here, but paywall) says Dayne St. Clair has a 60% chance of landing a GA contract while Will Pulisic has a 5% chance.

Dec 20: College Soccer News says UNC’s James Pyle will be selected as both the 15th and 21st pick [sic] and Rashid Nuhu is a top ten caliber player.

Dec 21: A Paraguayan reporter is saying 34 year old Antony Silva is heading towards MLS.

Dec 29: Brooke Tunstall reporting that National Champion Dayne St. Clair is going to be a Generation Adidas player, which allows him to enter the draft early and not count against the salary cap. Unless an American-based team just really likes St. Clair (he has spent time with the Red Bulls last summer), he’ll either go to a Canadian side or opt for the freshly minted Canadian Premier League. While a GA going unpicked might seem odd, Callum Irving was highly touted by some for the 106 MLS Superdraft but went completely undrafted, largely because most the league would have to use an international slot for a USL goalkeeper. International slots’ value has skyrocketed over the past few years.

Jan 1: Dayne St. Clair projected to go to Toronto on the 6th overall pick, with no other goalkeepers selected in the first round.

Jan 1: Transfermarkt interviews Akron goalkeeper, Ben Lundt.

Jan 2: MLSsoccer.com picks up the Silva rumor from December 21st.

Jan 3: An anonymous club has reached out for Andreas Luthe, a 31 year old German goalkeeper who has spent most of his career in the second division, with a “lucrative offer”, which spells trouble. Frontrunners for such a bonehead decision are Chicago, Minnesota, and Orlando.

Jan 14: Matic Kotnik now tied to the league. Unlike many goalkeepers brought into the league int he past, Kotnik actually seems good at the position. But if the report is true about having interest across Europe, coming to MLS seems very unlikely.

Atlanta United

Starter: Brad Guzan (34)
Backup:
Alec Kann (28)
In Reserve:
Brendan Moore (26)
Coach: 
Aron Hyde

In: Brendan Moore (signed)
Dylan Castanheira (signed with ATL2)

Out: Mitch Hildebrandt (29, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Atlanta United II
Paul Christensen (23, 10 starts)
Dylan Castanheira

Youth Prospects
Justin Garces (UCLA, FR)
Russell Shealy (Maryland, FR)

2018 Grade: C+
Projected N3Y Grade:
B+

Bill says: Guzan is sitting on a $700,000 contract and it’s person-to-person whether it’s a good deal. In contrast to Howard’s contract, it’s great. In contrast to some other goalkeepers, maybe Atlanta could save a few hundred thousand dollars.

Atlanta split playing time between five goalkeepers over the season, with rookie Paul Christensen getting the most starts with ten.

Don’t expect any notable changes with starting goalkeepers between the two teams. Even if Kann and/or Hildebrandt don’t return, Christensen will likely pick up the bulk of starts of ATL2.

Dec 9: Hildebrandt’s option isn’t picked up. For a veteran, it’s unlikely they are restructuring his contract and more likely ATL is making room for Christensen.

Dec 12: C+ may be a little low but I’m still not completely on board with the process. Guzan’s season felt a lot like “one step forward, one step back” - although he did have a nice save and shutout recently - and the same goes for Christensen with ATL2. Justin Garces earned the starting spot at UCLA but he’s still four years minimum away from taking over. If Atlanta can get another mid-20 year old to bolster the position, I’d feel much more confident moving forward.

Dec 20: TopDrawerSoccer rates Dayne St. Clair as having 60% odds of landing a GA contract and Will Pulisic at 5%, which feels fair on both parties.

Dec 27: With the Union swiping Matt Freese (who just finished his sophomore season with Harvard) and Steffen’s big sale, it could give the nudge to Atlanta to bring in Garces sooner than later. Typically with these sort of scenarios, a lot weighs on the goalkeeper’s situation with the college they’re at, and it doesn’t get much better than UCLA. It seems like an outside chance that Garces leaves school after just one year but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it does happen.

Jan 2: Speaking on Garces, Travis Clark writes, “The MLS Cup champs don’t have a glut of candidates in the college ranks. UCLA goalkeeper Justin Garces is perhaps the brightest prospect, although it’s unclear how long he would be eligible for a homegrown deal, since he played just a single season with the franchise’s academy.”

Jan 9: Moore joins the first team and I absolutely love this signing. Moore has some commendable talent but struggled to latch on while at Rochdale. Hopefully he will split time with Christensen at ATL2.

Jan 11: Columbia senior Dylan Castanheira signs with Atlanta. Castanheira opted out of the combine so sounds like Atlanta moved pretty quick to lock down the Ivy Leaguer. Atlanta has done a good job filling out the goalkeeping core with youngsters with high ceilings and not journeymen that have zero chance of taking over the MLS starting spot.

Jan 14: FC Dallas selects Castanheira in the fourth round after he had already signed with Atlanta. I’m guessing this means FC Dallas hold Castanheira’s MLS rights and expect Atlanta to trade something for them at some point. I believe an MLS team can only hold so many non-rostered players’ rights, so they could theoretically drop them at some point. All this is compounded by the fact that Atlanta outright passed just nine picks before Dallas made theirs. This isn’t as ridiculous as Ousted’s deleted deal last year just because of how high-profile of a player Ousted was, but mechanically it’s equally absurd.

Atlanta gets a B+ going forward as they’ve done really well to stock up ATL2 but it appears they’re set for another average year with the first team. You can’t understate the value of having a game plan going forward but then again you can’t understate having a strong season between the posts for 2019. Projected N3Y Grade: B+

 

Chicago Fire

Starter: Richard Sanchez (24)
Backup:
Stefan Cleveland (24)
In Reserve:
none
Coach: 
Aleksandar Saric

Youth Prospects
Sawyer Jackman (UIC, SR)
Miha Miskovic (Northwestern, Serbia, SO)
Jamison Yoder (Green Bay, SO)
Kyle Orciuch (Stanford, FR)
Cedrik Stern (Marquette, Germany, FR)
Damien Las (HS.JR)

In: none

Out: Patrick McLain (30, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Tulsa Roughnecks
Fabian Cerda (Chile, 28)

2018 Grade: C
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Sanchez is possibly the most polarizing goalkeeper in the league. One moment he’s making a good save, then later that game it’s a poor tactical decision that lets one in the back of the net. For a goalkeeper who sat most the time in Mexico, it’s not too surprising to see. Needless to say, he’s far from securing the position. There have been rumors of bringing Iker Casillas to Chicago for the past couple years and while that’s still very unlikely, Sanchez should get a decent fight come next preseason. Cleveland earned only one start with Tulsa (raising questions about how well Chicago is getting their money’s worth from the USL) but if it wasn’t for McLain picking up an injury, he probably would have seen more than five starts this season.

No signs on if Chicago thinks McLain can bolster the position, but after allowing only six goals all year, he’s shown he has the talent if he can get stay healthy and get another chance.

Dec 10: Both Sanchez and Cleveland left unprotected for the expansion draft, if that says anything about the Fire’s faith in moving forward with the two goalkeepers.

Dec 23: This year someone got the idea to start the rumor that German-American 33-year-old goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm was a darkhorse USMNT candidate. Despite not really having the resume (has bounced around lower levels of Germany) nor ever showing interest in doing so, the rumor has grown and grown. So when you see quips like these, know that that’s only a recent rumor thrown out there to drum up interest in the goalkeeper.

Anyway, Chicago is connected to Kronholm, which is quite the drop off from chasing Casillas last offseason. Kronholm is an experienced veteran who would be a great number two or three for training, but anything higher is an unwarranted expectation.

Jan 3: An anonymous club has reached out for Andreas Luthe, a 31 year old German goalkeeper who has spent most of his career in the second division, with a “lucrative offer”, which spells trouble. My guess for such a bonehead decision is Chicago, but hopefully the deal falls through.

Jan 8: St. Clair projected as the fifth overall pick to Chicago, which on the heels of Steffen’s big sale may be a result of coaches thinking they could get the next big goalkeeper. I’d be surprised if Chicago picked him up as they are likely still looking at a veteran to bring in.

FC Cincinnati

Starter: TBD
Backup:
Spencer Richey (26) / Przemyslaw Tyton (31, Poland)
In Reserve:
Jimmy Hauge (22), Ben Lundt (German, 23)
Coach: 
Jack Stern

Youth Prospects
none

In: Spencer Richey (traded from Vancouver)
Przemyslaw Tyton (free transfer)
Jimmy Hauge (drafted, 2nd round)
Ben Lundt (drafted, 2nd round)

Out: none

USL Affiliate: none

2018 Grade: B-
Projected N3Y Grade:
F

Bill says: FC Cincinnati relied on Evan Newton (29) and Spencer Richey (25) to split 20 and 14 games last season, respectively. For a new club, they’re going to want to save on money on backups so it depends how they view the two. Newton is about as steady as they come but Richey has some upside as well. It’s possible they bring them both up on $80,000-ish contracts but if I had to pick between the two, I’d lean Richey as he finished the season with the team but it’s essentially a tossup outside-looking-in.

Dec 9: Richey it is! This still doesn’t remove the possibility of Newton coming in but Head Coach Alan Koch has made it pretty clear Richey is valued, “Last season, he battled and remained resilient in a competitive goalkeeping environment and showcased his abilities with fantastic performances at the end of the year. We believe Spencer displayed significant growth over the course of the year and we are excited to give him a well-deserved opportunity with this club in MLS.”

Vancouver still held Richey’s rights so FC Cincinnati sent a 2020 third-round draft pick, essentially garbage, to the Whitecaps for a goalkeeper on the rise. It’s a great move for Cincinnati and while they may still pick up another goalkeeper in the expansion draft, it drastically lessens the possibility of them signing any goalkeeper on money over $120,000. Perhaps they steal another youngster but don’t expect them to sign “an established veteran” on ridiculous money.

Dec 12: You can’t grade Cincinnati on the same grading scale as the rest of the league. So considering they performed well all season and, more importantly, set themselves up to carry one over to the big leagues, it’s been a successful run from the Ohioans.

Dec 12: Cincinnati tied to Przemyslaw Tyton, a 31-year-old Polish goalkeeper who has 14 starts for Poland, but hasn’t been a starter since 2016. (Highlights here.) Unfortunately this feels a lot like a Carlo Cudicini-type of move.

Dec 13: If there’s anything really to say about how much Cincy values Tyton it’s the fact that they got him in a free transfer. The one plus here is that if (and most likely) when Tyton isn’t up to snuff, Cincinnati has the precedent of giving the second stringer a chance. Don’t be surprised if he isn’t with Cincinnati this time next year.

Dec 20: Cincinnati.com has an interesting story on how Cincinnati found their newest goalkeeper and all I can think is “You spent all these resources for what?”. From the article, “Stern made the journey to Plock, which is a two-hour drive from Warsaw, and bunkered in for the better part of a week to observe and evaluate Tytoń over the course of four Wisła Plock training sessions.” Tyton has hardly played at all in the last two years yet Cincinnati thought a backup goalkeeper from a team that just got relegated out of La Liga was their lead option. As I say, I’m always happy to be wrong but the odds don’t seem to favor Cincinnati here.

Jan 11: After Philly traded out their draft picks for TAM, Cincinnati said “hey why not” and drafted two goalkeepers for whatever reason. If you’re at the draft and still not sure which goalkeeper you’d like to take, you haven’t done your research from the previous four months of collegiate ball. Even if Cincinnati manages to roster four goalkeepers, there’s a strong possibility zero of the four will be around in 2020. Hopefully Cincinnati can pick up an affiliate to get any one of their three backups some game time. Projected N3Y Grade: F

Jan 12: In another turn of unbelievable events, Cincinnati is linked with Boca Juniors goalkeeper Agustín Rossi on a year-long loan. No comment.

Update: Apparently the team is Minnesota. Thank goodness.

 

Colorado Rapids

Starter: Tim Howard (39)
Backup:
Clint Irwin (29)
In Reserve:
Andre Rawls (29)
Coach: 
Chris Sharpe

Youth Prospects
Connor Gavigan (Florida Gulf Coast, SO)
Trevor Mowry (Cal Poly, FR)

In: Clint Irwin (traded from Toronto)
Andre Rawls (Re-Entry draft)

Out: Andrew Dykstra (32, out of contract)
Zac MacMath (27, traded to Vancouver)

USL Affiliate: Charlotte Independence
Andrew Dykstra (32)
Brandon Miller (29)

2018 Grade: F
Projected N3Y Grade:
F

Bill says: Another year where Colorado has zero youth development in mind. Not only does Colorado let 2018 draftee Thomas Olsen walk but Zac MacMath amounts for four total starts in all competitions as Dykstra picked up the bulk of time in Charlotte. With Howard on the largest MLS goalkeeping contract of all-time and only playing to the level of an average starter at best, it’s a great recipe for making in-house turmoil.

Dec 9: MacMath off the books for some TAM, a decent trade. Colorado fans should be less worried about a backup for 2019 and more concerned about how the Rapids are going to handle the position come 2020.

Dec 12: While I don’t think Howard had a bad year, at $2,475,000 you’re not hoping for just “not bad”. At that kind of money it has to be exceptional, which it wasn’t. Colorado did well to get a little return out of MacMath but the lack of forethought in the position after Howard is troubling.

Dec 13: Irwin enters the club in exchange for a second round draft pick. It’s a bit much for a player of this caliber but second round draft picks aren’t that highly valued to begin with. Although the Rapids could have done better in the haggling, it’s a pretty minimal waste on their part.

Rawls is selected in the re-entry draft and turns 28 next week yet still has zero MLS starts. Similar to Irwin’s acquisition, the Rapids didn’t waste any real resources to bring in Rawls. This also likely removes the possibility of Dykstra returning.

While I wouldn’t say either goalkeeper is poor, the bigger issue is that the Rapids had the chance to be bold with the future of the position and went with two backups that likely won’t be there at the start of the 2021 season.

Jan 14: Colorado’s average age with their goalkeepers is over 32. Projected N3Y Grade: F

 

Columbus Crew

Starter: Zack Steffen (23)
Backup:
Joe Bendik (29) / Jon Kempin (25)
In Reserve: Ben Lundgaard (23)
Coach: 
Pat Onstad

Youth Prospects
Parker Siegfried (Ohio State, JR)
Robbie McKelvey (Duquesne, JR)

In: Zack Steffen (on loan from Manchester City)
Joe Bendik (traded for TAM)

Out: Zack Steffen (23, transferred to Manchester City)
Logan Ketterer (25, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Dan Lynd (24)

2018 Grade: A
Projected N3Y Grade:
A-

Bill says: It’s an interesting time for Columbus as there are a few different directions to go from Steffen’s sale. Do they invest in another youngster and hope he ends up in Europe (aka gives the Crew a nice transfer fee)? Do they trust Kempin or Lundgaard to take over? Do they opt for a more established veteran? Could we see Steffen back on a loan from Manchester City? Time will tell but I’m hoping to see Kempin get a fair shake. He did well with his time in LA but not as sharp in his five appearances this year.

Ketterer had his option declined and writes a thankful Instagram post for his time in Columbus.

Dec 12: Steffen is set to play the first half of 2019 with Columbus before heading off to Manchester City. The big question is whom the Crew are looking to replace Steffen with. Kempin earned some games last year and looked okay but he’s shown some really positive moments in both LA and Kansas City that I think he has enough reason to warrant another chance to get the keys to the car this summer.

The Crew earns an “A” for 2018, largely for their ability to convert a young prospect into $7-10 million. Steffen had some positive moments but also had some room to grow as well.

Dec 12: While most everyone has been positive about the Manchester City move, the Guardian astutely points out that Manchester City has a number of players out on loan (28 in total) and raises some concerns about the move.

On a side note, Onstad feels confident about replacing Steffen, “Our scouts already have players targeted as the Club identifies a high-caliber replacement.”

Dec 27: Columbus brings in Joe Bendik by first acquiring Bendiks’ “first right of refusal”, which essentially transfers the player’s rights to the new team. In this example, if Bendik doesn’t want to sign, Columbus can literally lock him down by matching any future offer another MLS team throws on the table as players ultimately sign with the league and not teams. If Columbus doesn’t match any future offers, they lose the rights to Bendik. All that said, Columbus wasn’t going to move TAM ($50,000) only to not sign him.

The question now is what the fall will look like when Steffen leaves. It’s likely that Bendik holds the edge on Kempin now but the Crew have plenty of time to figure it out.

Jan 14: The back half of 2019 is going to be really interesting. I think a lot of people have counted out Lundgaard as an option going forward but any three of Bendik, Kempin, or Lundgaard could be starting in 2020 if one of them is able to put their ducks in a row. Columbus has given themselves multiple options to look at for 2020. Projected N3Y Grade: A-

 

D.C. United

Starter: Bill Hamid (28)
Backup:
Chris Seitz (31) / David Ousted (33, Denmark)
In Reserve:
Earl Edwards (26)
Coach: 
Zach Thornton

Youth Prospects
Scott Rissler (Duquesne, JR)
James Knoebel (Liberty, JR)
Jacob Braham (Stony Brook, JR)
Lance DaSilva (Coastal Carolina, SO)
Noah Lawrence (Cincinnati, SO)
Quantrell Jones (UMBC, FR)
Dane Jacomen (Penn, FR)

In: none

Out: Travis Worra (25, out of contract)

USL Affiliate: Richmond Kickers
Travis Worra (25)
Trevor Spangenberg (27)

2018 Grade: D
Projected N3Y Grade:
D

Bill says: Another confounding year in the goalkeeping department for DC. Ousted ends up being one of the highest paid backups at $370,000 while DC United bring back Bill Hamid on loan after his transfer fee to FC Midtjylland for zero dollars ended up amounting to Hamid having close to a zero dollar impact on the club. Hamid did well with his time in DC but United’s route going forward is more than muddied. They could theoretically take Hamid back full-time but I would imagine DC wouldn’t spend more than what they sold him for ($0) simply out of principle.

Dec 10: One way to protect a player for the expansion draft is to make them ineligible for the draft. The other way is to sign a backup player to a $370,000 contract. Ousted and Worra left open for Cincinnati.

Dec 12: DC United finish with a “D” on the year. Hamid came in and salvaged the position for the most part but the whole approach to goalkeeping is all over the place. If my math is right, I think Ousted is set to make more money than Hamid for 2019, if not at least very close to. DC United spent twice as much than LAFC did on goalkeepers and got less than half the results.

Dec 16: Orlando’s Earl Edwards linked to DC.

Dec 19: DC sends a second round draft pick for Orlando City backup, who did not have a strong 2018 season. Ousted is probably on the way out (although DC will probably have to eat some of the salary) so Edwards could possibly be the number two for 2019.

There’s not a ton of reason to believe Edwards can be a potential MLS starter in a few years. The last time he was consistently playing well was close to a decade ago. Perhaps Thornton thinks he can right the ship but it seems unlikely as of now.

Dec 27: DC is sending $50,000 of TAM to Orlando for Edwards. Overall it’s a fairly unremarkable amount of news but nevertheless here it is.

Jan 14: Hamid did fine in 2018 but still will likely have his ups and downs next year. Edwards hasn’t shown signs yet of taking over the position and Ousted, their highest paid goalkeeper, is still on the books. Projected N3Y Grade: D

Edit: I missed the Seitz trade from the 11th, which as Steven Goff points out means Ousted is likely out, if not of the league entirely. Some MLS teams have taken interest but I can’t see anyone giving him a contract over $150K. DC United’s N3Y Grade stays at a D as Seitz likely won’t be with United longterm.

FC Dallas

Starter: Jesse Gonzalez (23)
Backup:
Jimmy Maurer (31)
In Reserve:
Kyle Zobeck (28), Carlos Avilez (19)
Coach: Drew Keeshan

Youth Prospects
Matthew Karasinski (Tulsa, JR)
Charlie Furrer (Stanford, JR)
Ben Hale (Furman, SO)
David Abonce (Ohio State, FR)
Trevor Jackson (Central Arkansas, FR)
Carlos Mercado (Incarnate Word, FR)

In: none

Out: none

USL Affiliate: North Texas SC
no players announced yet

2018 Grade: D
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: FC Dallas tries another year with Gonzalez and once again it’s mixed results. With FC Dallas treating the position with the right amount of fluidity, perhaps Avilez could work his way into the starting role if he does well enough with North Texas.

FC Dallas announces the creation of the USL side North Texas SC and with tryouts this month, it’s safe to say they don’t quite have the depth yet to really project much. Sports Day points out Ben Hale and Carlos Avilez as possible starters.

Dec 10: Somewhat interesting that FC Dallas protected Maurer for the draft, implying they’re not done with him yet.

Dec 12: Not a great year from Gonzalez and on $211,000, it has to be better. It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes Maurer gets in 2019. After earning 13 starts, does FC Dallas continue to lean on the 30-year-old or try to commit to Gonzalez even more? Hopefully FC Dallas is even quicker to put Maurer in the net if Gonzalez continues to struggle.

Dec 27: With the USL expansion, it should be a little telling what FC Dallas think of their homegrown options. Perhaps goalkeepers don’t sign this first year just to see how things are going to run, but with how forward-thinking FC Dallas has been in the past with the youth, it makes sense they pull a kid up for this next spring.

Houston Dynamo

Starter: Joe Willis (30)
Backup:
Tyler Deric (30)
In Reserve:
Michael Nelson (23)
Coach: 
Paul Rogers

Youth Prospects
Andy Rios (UT Rio Grande Valley, JR)
Charles Filby (Virginia Tech, JR)
Andrew Morrison (Washington, FR)
Alex Fetterly (New Mexico, FR)

In: none

Out: Chris Seitz (31, traded)

USL Affiliate: Rio Grande Valley FC Toros
Nico Corti (23)

2018 Grade: C+
Projected N3Y Grade:
B+

Bill says: The Dynamo started the season with Seitz in goal but after six games made the switch to Willis. Houston would later bring back Deric mid-season but outside of two starts, it was all Willis. It’s a little unclear who the intended starter would be for 2019. Nelson is the one on the books with the parent team, not Nico Corti, who would end up getting the bulk of the starts at RGV. The Dynamo have never looked sold on Willis but there’s no denying he performed up to expectations this year, if not exceeding them at times. Nelson is likely still the long-term goal but he’s probably still 2-3 years from reaching that goal.

Dec 10: Nelson is the only goalkeeper available for the expansion draft. It’s a long shot Cincy picks him up but if they’re wanting a young project, Nelson isn’t a bad option.

Jan 14: A quiet winter for Houston’s goalkeeping department. Looking back, the C+ is a little low for Houston as Willis had a stronger year when I dove a little more into the season. Between Seitz and Deric, one seems a little superfluous, but with Willis having another couple good years in him and Nelson/Corti in the wing, they’re better off than most teams. Projected N3Y Grade: B+

Edit: I overlooked Seitz’s departure, which makes sense on Houston’s part to move on without him.

 

Los Angeles FC

Starter: Tyler Miller (25)
Backup:
none
In Reserve: 
none
Coach:
Zak Abdel

Youth Prospects
none

In: none

Out: Charlie Lyon (26, option declined)
Quillan Roberts (24, Canada, option declined)
Luis Lopez (25, Honduras, loan expired)

USL Affiliate: Orange County SC
Andre Rawls (28, on loan from NYC)
Bennett Sneddon (21)

2018 Grade: A-
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Tyler Miller went from an expansion draft pick to one of the top five goalkeepers in the league. Based off of LAFC’s handling with the rest of the depth chart, it seems like it was more good fortune for LAFC as Miller simply ran with the opportunity in front of him. If LAFC could get a larger return out of the affiliate (LAFC goalkeepers combined for five starts with the OC) I’d be a little more convinced they had a cleared plan going forward but right now LAFC is paying Lopez $147,500 to sit the bench while their starter is made just under $69,000.

Dec 12: Lopez heads out, which certainly frees up some money for LAFC. Unless Miller re-negotiates a new contract, LAFC should have, at most, a cool $100,000 to spend on a backup. But overall it was an incredibly successful year after LAFC was wise to recognize talent left available in the expansion draft.

Dec 30: LAFC looking at bringing back Lopez in for free but his parent club isn’t excited about it. LAFC would be better off looking elsewhere for a goalkeeper, especially if the asking price for a backup goalkeeper is greater than $0.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Starter: David Bingham (29)
Backup:
Matt Lampson (29)
In Reserve:
Justin vom Steeg (21)
Coach: 
Oka Nikolov

Youth Prospects
Matt Watkin (San Diego State, JR)

In: Matt Lampson (re-entry draft)

Out: Brian Sylvestre (26, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Los Angeles Galaxy II
Eric Lopez (19)
Wade Hamilton (24)

2018 Grade: D-
Projected N3Y Grade:
C-

Bill says: After all the effort LAG spent to get Bingham, he ended up being a bottom five goalkeeper for the year. Vom Steeg (14), Eric Lopez (11), and Wade Hamilton (7) split time in USL action and right now I’m not convinced that vom Steeg couldn’t reproduce what Bingham has shown in goal. Unfortunately the Galaxy has locked themselves into a heavy contract with Bingham at $275,0000.

Dec 12: If it weren’t for the USL side the Galaxy would have received a straight F, but one has to think out of Lopez, vom Steeg, and Hamilton, at least one goalkeeper is going to work out between the three. So while 2018 is something fans are wanting to move past quickly, they do have a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Then again, every goalkeeper starts with a clean slate in March and 2019 wouldn’t be the first time a goalkeeper rebounded from a terrible year to remind the critics they deserve their paycheck.

Dec 20: The Galaxy pick up Lampson in the expansion draft and while he’s probably not brought in to push Bingham, it at least gives the Galaxy a safe option to fall back on if Bingham starts another poor form. Bingham hasn’t had a decent year since 2016 and at around $100,000, it makes sense on the Galaxy’s part.

Jan 14: I’m having trouble gauging how Galaxy favors Hamilton, Lopez, or vom Steeg. Three young goalkeepers with mixed fanfare and a goalkeeper returning to the starting position after a bad 2018 gets the Galaxy a C- with projecting their next three years. Projected N3Y Grade: C-

 

Minnesota United

Starter: Bobby Shuttleworth (31)
Backup:
Dayne St. Clair (21, Canada)
In Reserve:
none
Coach: 
John Pascarella

In: Dayne St. Clair (drafted, 1st round)

Out: Matt Lampson (29, option declined, selected in re-entry draft)
Alex Kapp (24, option declined)

USL affiliate: Forward Madison FC
will start play in 2019

2018 Grade: D+
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: It’s an interesting strategy Minnesota utilized with their goalkeeping core. Instead of paying big for one goalkeeper, which may or may not work out, they paid less than $300,000 for two goalkeepers, hedging their bets that one of them would work out. And it worked out, with Shuttleworth having a good year through 25 games. Similar to Houston, Lampson started the first six games then Shuttleworth took over after that. Kapp didn’t see any action all year and with Shuttleworth turning 31 this year, Minnesota will likely look to a very thin senior goalkeeping class to help out, although they’ve had zero luck with young goalkeepers in their short history. With Forward Madison joining League One in 2019, Minnesota can afford to pick up more than youngster to test drive.

Dec 10: Minnesota protected Shuttleworth for the expansion draft, implying they have some bigger plans for him in 2019.

Dec 20: Lampson selected in the re-entry draft. Minnesota needs two goalkeepers, if not three or four to fill out Madison.

Jan 11: I had predicted St. Clair going to Orlando but Minnesota 1) makes sense and 2) is a good pick by the Loons. With the affiliation with Forward Madison, St. Clair should be set to pick up some games and won’t take up an international slot in the process. Minnesota has the ability to flex with their third slot. They could pick up another youngster if they think Shuttleworth is safe enough or bring in another veteran to shore up the position. Shuttleworth didn’t have a great 2018 so the latter seems more likely.

Jan 12: Things are moving quickly up north! Minnesota looking at Argentine 23 year old goalkeeper Agustín Rossi. I actually really like this move as it strengthens the position, elevates the level of play in the league as a whole, and gives the goalkeeping core some direction going forward. It’s a loan so there isn’t the possibility of getting a return on the backend (a $12 million buy is an option after the loan but that seems unlikely). All-in-all this is a great move for Minnesota, if true.

Jan 14: Rossi to Minnesota apparently has some real traction. It still receives a big thumbs up from me if they can get this deal sorted out.

Montreal Impact

Starter: Evan Bush (32)
Backup:
Clement Diop (France, 25)
In Reserve:
James Pantemis (Canada, 21)
Jason Beaulieu (Canada, 24)
Coach: 
Joël Bats

In: none

Out: Maxime Crepeau (Canada, 24, traded to Vancouver)

USL Affiliate: Ottawa Fury
Maxime Crepeau (likely won’t return)

2018 Grade: B-
Projected N3Y Grade:
D

Bill says: After a strong year, Bush is rewarded with a million dollar contract over three years, placing her around 12th for most paid for an MLS goalkeeper. It’s a smart plan to keep Bush in charge until no later than 2021 with Crepeau (who quietly earned 35 starts with Ottawa this year) takes over whenever he’s ready. The rest of the roster is a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Impact are spending nearly $200,000 on the three goalkeepers sitting the bench, but at least they have a plan.

Dec 9: Scratch that. Montreal receives $50,000 in TAM and a third-round draft pick for the 2020 draft for Crepeau, a pretty low offer had Montreal rated Crepeau highly but, more likely, a decent offer if Montreal was ready to move on from him. This doesn’t give much confidence for Montreal post-Bush life. It takes a couple years to groom a goalkeeper into the starting spot.

Dec 12: Pantemis is awarded Team Canada save of the year for this quick paw.

I was in between a B-/C+ year for Montreal but with Bush playing so well and Montreal getting some return out of their youngsters, they’re getting the bump up. However, Bush will have raised expectations heading into 2019 with the new contract.

Jan 14: I can’t see Beaulieu, Diop, or Pantemis taking over and the Impact has zero homegrown options down the line. Projected N3Y Grade: D

New England Revolution

Starter: Matt Turner (24)
Backup:
Brad Knighton (33)
In Reserve:
Cody Cropper (25)
Coach: 
Remi Roy

Youth Prospects
Austin Aviza (Connecticut, JR)
Eddie Walsh (Xavier, SO)
Trey Miller (Massachusetts, FR)
Matt Tibbetts (Holy Cross, FR)

In: none

Out: none

USL Affiliate: Hartford Athletic
will start play in 2019

2018 Grade: B-
Projected N3Y Grade:
B-

Bill says: In a surprising turn of events, Matt Turner started the year for the Revs until a string of poor performances saw Knighton earn seven starts before the end of the year. It’s not quite as stable of a goalkeeping situation that Manager Brad Friedel would like to have. Turner is likely to be the starter for 2019 but the bigger question is if New England are happy with their setup and if not, how could they add a goalkeeper in smoothly. Cropper seems like he could be meant for greener pastures and with Hartford Athletic joining USL play, New England may try to find a hidden gem in this year’s draft class.

Dec 12: When you look across the league and see how much teams are spending on the position and see how much of a return the Revs got on so little money, it’s truly impressive. Hopefully New England can build on the success and not be content with where they ended up.

Jan 14: Cropper doesn’t seem like a viable starting option with Turner on the books and with Knighton at 33, their goalkeeping core will probably be drastically different in 2020. Turner was a great pickup, but they need a little more. Projected N3Y Grade: B-

New York City FC

Starter: Sean Johnson (29)
Backup:
Brad Stuver (27)
In Reserve: 
Jeff Caldwell (22), Luis Barraza (22)
Coach: 
Rob Vartughian

Youth Prospects
Johan Penaranda (Pittsburgh, FR)

In: Luis Barraza (drafted, 1st round)

Out: Andre Rawls (28, option declined, selected in re-entry draft)

USL Affiliate: San Antonio FC
Diego Restrepo (30)

2018 Grade: D+
Projected N3Y Grade:
C

Bill says: NYC’s affiliate situation is odd, to say the least. Reported they’re not quite near having their own USL side, they’ve sent Rawls to Orange County (LAFC’s affiliate) and kept promising young prospect Jeff Caldwell in-house for the entirety of 2018 and allowing him zero professional starts for the year. It’s a hard sell to think that only training environments for Caldwell would be better off for him in the long run. Perhaps NYC could learn a lesson from San Jose or Colorado on how not to devalue young goalkeepers.

Dec 10: Jeff Caldwell - currently sitting on a $54,500 contract - is available for the expansion draft. He’s the top pick for my money, especially considering how cheap he is. Cincinnati will be able to find a relatively (if not free) veteran in the coming months while Caldwell is a goalkeeper with some massive upside.

Dec 13: Rawls officially not returning as he’s selected in the re-entry draft. Rawls earned zero starts for NYC, spending his entire career in the USL thus far.

Jan 11: NYC has yet to have a notable, successful run with any goalkeeper in their short history. Drafting a fourth after not utilizing their USL affiliate at all last season doesn’t seem to be pointing towards a winning success. San Antonio is sitting on only one goalkeeper at the moment but don’t forget that Jeff Caldwell is still waiting to get his first professional start.

Jan 14: I’m suspect that City is going to handle their youngsters well but assuming they’ll do an adequate job, they’re doing well enough for themselves. Projected N3Y Grade: C

 

New York Red Bulls

Starter: Luis Robles (34)
Backup:
Ryan Meara (28)
In Reserve:
Evan Louro (22), Rashid Nuhu (23)
Coach: 
Preston Burpo

Youth Prospects
Tomas Lapinas (George Mason, SR)
Ethan Koehler (Georgetown, SO)
Xavier Kennedy (Ohio State, SO)
Matthew Frank (Stanford, FR)
Steven Ortiz (Fairleigh Dickinson, FR)
Sam Ilin (LIU Brooklyn, FR)

In: Rashid Nuhu (drafted, third round)

Out: none

USL Affiliate: New York Red Bulls II
Louro (26 starts)

2018 Grade: C-
Projected N3Y Grade:
C+

Bill says: Overall it felt like a fairly underwhelming year from Robles and the three games Meara received he looked a step behind. Despite getting plenty of time in USL, Louro doesn’t look like he’s on track to replace Robles. The Red Bulls had highly touted collegiate goalkeepers Rashid Nuhu and Dayne St. Clair with the U23s this summer so they’re clearly aware of young goalkeepers, but they’re struggling to get the right return so far.

Dec 10: The Red Bulls protect all three goalkeepers for the draft which seems like one too many for where they are with their core right now. Either pave a way for one of the youngsters or move on to another project.

Jan 14: Rashid Nuhu drafted, a great pickup that’ll boost their N3Y Grade a bit, but it still doesn’t look like the Red Bulls have a solid exit plan from Robles. Meara has gotten so little time in his career, I doubt they’ll see him as a successor. Louro and Nuhu are still years away, which may mean Robles starting longer than he should. I’m not optimistic but here’s hoping. Projected N3Y Grade: C+

Orlando City SC

Starter: TBD
Backup:
Adam Grinwis (26)
In Reserve:
Greg Ranjitsingh (25)
Coach: 
Tim Mulqueen

Youth Prospects
Justin Bauer (South Carolina, SO)

In: none

Out: Joe Bendik (29, option declined)
Earl Edwards (26, out of contract, traded to DC)

USL Affiliate: Orlando City B
will start play in 2019

2018 Grade: D+
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Bendik is out and I would be surprised if Edwards returned either, who didn’t look sharp in his 4.5 games this year. Orlando had wisely signed Grinwis for peanuts ($67,500) and he’s definitely played above his value. I’ve always liked Griniws since his days in Michigan and was glad to see he finished the season as the starter. However, It’s tough to say Grinwis impressed too much as he only earned four points in five games but the team was already looking towards 2019 at that point so the jury is still out. Personally I thought he looked like an MLS starter in the last game of the season but time will tell how Orlando approaches filling the gaps. I would guess they try for another cheap, youngster and then a goalkeeper in the $150,000-$200,000 range, depending on how confident they are with the replacement. Fortunately Orlando is reviving their OCB side so any young goalkeepers they bring in surely will get some playing time.

Lastly, Orlando City had a wonderful video package on Mason Stajduhar, who is still fighting bone cancer and training with Orlando when he can. It’s an unbelievable story of determination in the face of an undeserved setback.

Dec 10: Bendik is on a bit of a contract ($189,000) and while Cincinnati can renegotiate, I’d be surprised if Bendik came below $150,000, which would likely make him a little too expensive for Cincinnati. Either way, it sounds like Bendik is walking from Orlando still. They did hold onto Grinwis, which sounds like he will be given a fair shake at the starting gig for 2019.

Dec 12: Giving Orlando City a “D+” may feel overly nice considering the band seems to be breaking up, but the former Lions didn’t dig themselves into a hole this year. Yes, the defense was below par but the goalkeeping department wasn’t terrible and the team didn’t overcommit with contracts. And perhaps more importantly, Orlando gave Edwards and Grinwis a solid look before the season’s end. When they knew Bendik wasn’t the answer, they exhausted all their options instead of coming into 2019 thinking wondering who could take over.

Dec 19: Orlando receives a second round pick for Edwards, which you have to assume is for his performance with the US U17s and not last season, and also pick up two-time USL Champion Greg Ranjitsingh for free. Despite the hardware, Grinwis is a level above Ranjitsingh for my money, although Orlando could certainly use someone with confidence in net and the latest newcomer will be given a hard look.

As an aside, compare Orlando’s goalkeeping situation to DC’s. DC got in too deep with some of their contracts, will likely have to eat some of Ousted’s to send him out, and have now sent a draft pick to Orlando for their new back up. In contrast, Orlando’s two rosters goalkeepers were free USL pickups and have increased their hand come draft day by picking up a draft pick. DC is buying up Orlando’s leftovers while Orlando is wisely looking at free options to test out. The Lions may still bring in an experienced veteran to cap off the position but by doing all the little things right, it gives them the freedom to raise the ceiling at the top.

Dec 19: Orlando’s SB Nation blog lists three candidates to be the third goalkeeper on the books. These are probably the three most unlikely goalkeepers anyone could think of but still a fun list.

Philadelphia Union

Starter: Andre Blake (Jamaica, 28)
Backup:
Matt Freese (20)
In Reserve:
none
Coach: 
Tim Hanley

Youth Prospects
Cameron Keys (La Salle, SR)
Andrew Verdi (Michigan, JR)
Jahmali Waite (Jamaica, Fairleigh Dickinson, SO)
Matt Freeze (Harvard, SO)
Tomas Romero (Georgetown, HS.SR)
Brady McSwain (Cornell, HS.SR)
Kris Shakes (Penn State, HS.SR)

In: none

Out: John McCarthy (26, out of contract)
Jake McGuire (24, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Bethlehem Steel
Jake McGuire (21 starts)

2018 Grade: C
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: McCarthy is out of contract while the Union opted to decline McGuire’s option, meaning that they’re moving on without him or, more likely, they’re re-negotiating his contract to replace McCarthy. Blake had a respectable year - not quite $500,000 worth but not awful - but for Philadelphia to have a real success with Blake he either needs to contend for GOTY every year or they sell him for at least seven figures. I don’t really see either of those two happening at this point.

On a minor note, the Union has an interesting batch of young goalkeepers. While Keys and Verdi have been relegated to backup roles, Freeze and Romero are two very talented goalkeepers that have a decent shot of landing with Philadelphia down the line.

Dec 10: McGuire available for the expansion draft. Similar to Houston’s Michael Nelson, it could be an option if Cincinnati is looking for a young goalkeeper.

Dec 21: The Union signs Matt Freese to a homegrown contract and the soon-to-be junior goalkeeper will skip his last two years of college ball. This is an excellent signing and, for the current environment, an idealized approach for young goalkeepers: send the kid out for a couple years, let him get some games under his belt (which wouldn’t happen if he’s just sitting in USL), and then bring him into a higher environment early instead of waiting 4-5 years. It’s still unclear what Freese’s ceiling really is, but at the very least he seems McCarthy-level if not higher. Freese was ranked fifth in the sophomore class last month.

An interesting tidbit from The Crimson, “Freese holds a German passport, which would make a move to Europe in the future much more realistic, as work permits can be hard to acquire for non-Europeans. Freese briefly hinted at interest from other clubs besides the Union and Manchester United, but didn’t go into detail. Having a European passport could make it easier for Freese to make the transition into playing for a European team, but for now, Matt is excited about his professional career at the Union.”

Portland Timbers

Starter: Jeff Attinella (30)
Backup:
Kendall McIntosh (24)
In Reserve:
none
Coach:
 Guillermo "Memo" Valencia

Youth Prospects
Trevor Wilson (DePaul, JR)
Toby Holstein (Gonzaga, JR)
Joe Wheelwright (Utah Valley, SO)
Zachary Nelson (Xavier, SO)
Zachary Morris (Rider, SO)
Eric Cotton (Western Michigan, Canada, FR)
Broden Schull (VMI, FR)

In: none

Out:
Jake Gleeson (New Zealand, 28, out of contract)
Steve Clark (32, out of contract)

USL Affiliate: Portland II
Kendall McIntosh (17 starts)
Alex Mangels (24, 15 starts)
Austin Pack (24, 1 start)

2018 Grade: B-
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: We’re still waiting on Portland’s roster update but it would appear that Gleeson and Clark are battling for the same spot. Both are on similar money and Gleeson should be healthy this month and certainly by next season. The likely victor will come down to how the contracts play out. If one is out, or can have their option declined, Portland isn’t going to want to keep three goalkeepers with $120,000 contracts on the books. McIntosh was outplayed by Mangels with the USL side, the latter being a goalkeeper Portland casually picked up in last year’s offseason.

It all feels a little shoot-from-the-hip-ish in Portland, which has its pros and cons. It allowed Attinella to prove himself, leading the team to the MLS Cup, but also doesn’t give off the impression they have a clear plan three years or months from now.

Dec 10: Some intuitive contract planning by Portland to keep contracts with Gleeson and Clark short. It doesn’t rule out the possibility of them returning, but it definitely lessens it. Portland is likely looking to spend $80,000-$100,000 on their backup, a notable pay cut for both goalkeepers.

Jan 15: Slovenian site says 25 year old Aljaž Ivačič has signed with Portland, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. He doesn’t seem to have the mobility to play in MLS but then again, it’s easy enough to flip a 25 year old in three years for profit. It looks like the plan is to get him ready for 2020 but with him being all over the place technically, that may be a bit of a chore. Not the worst signing, but it does feel like they could have gotten a little better for their money’s worth at a $250K transfer fee and $150 salary.

Real Salt Lake

Starter: Nick Rimando (39)
Backup:
Alex Horwath (31) / Andrew Putna (24)
In Reserve:
David Ochoa (17)
Coach: 
Todd Hoffard

Youth Prospects
Luis Barraza (Marquette, SR)
Gage Rogers (California Baptist, SO)
Jared Osgood (St. Louis, SO)
Jacob Jackson (Loyola Marymount, FR)

In: David Ochoa (homegrown)

Out: Connor Sparrow (24, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Real Monarchs
no rostered goalkeepers

2018 Grade: B
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Somehow Rimando had a very underwhelming 2017 then followed it up with a top-five performance in 2018. Of course, he gets overlooked again and I have no clue what it means for 2019, but he did more than earn his paycheck last year.

A knee injury derailed Sparrow’s 2018, where he was playing well for himself. Alex Horwath is still on roster but unless an injury hits Rimando, Horwath is likely to come and go from the come without much of a noise. Real Monarchs started Jake Leeker for half the season but he’s not slated to return as of right now. Ochoa is still quite green so RSL would do themselves a favor in picking up goalkeeper a year or two out of college to supplement Ochoa’s maturing process, or even pen recently graduated Luis Barraza to a homegrown contract.

Dec 10: I foolishly left off Andrew Putna, who just finished his second year within the RSL organization but only has 9 career games played. Putna spent most of 2018 with the parent squad after Horwath went down with an injury and even earned a game and a half with the first team. The outlook on Putna is a little tough to say. He looked fine in his three halves but RSL hasn’t invested in him to the point where they are expecting a return. Ochoa won’t be ready for a few years so unless Rimando is going to play until he’s 45, they’re going to have to lean on someone over the next 5-6 years.

All Horwath, Sparrow, Putna, and Jake Leeker are available for the expansion draft, giving more weight to RSL’s lack of trust in any of them replacing Rimando.

Dec 19: I’m not sure how likely it is that Barraza will be picked up by RSL with his homegrown contract possibility, but regardless he had a nice write up by AS Futbol.

 

San Jose Earthquakes

Starter: TBD
Backup:
JT Marcinkowski (21) / Andrew Tarbell (25)
In Reserve:
Matt Bersano (26)
Coach:
Carlos Roa, Jyri Nieminen

Youth Prospects
Remi Prieur (Saint Mary’s, JR)
Drake Callender (California, JR)
Dominic Peters (Wake Forest, FR)
Cameron Douglas (UCLA, FR)
Andre Wangard (Louisville, FR)
Ben Ayers (California, FR)
Victor Juarez (UNLV, FR)

In: none

Out: none

USL Affiliate: Reno 1868 FC
JT Marcinkowski

2018 Grade: D-
Projected N3Y Grade:
D+

Bill says: It’s a little odd that San Jose went way out of their way to pick up Andrew Tarbell when they had Marcinkowski coming up through the ranks but it’s even odder that the Earthquakes didn’t have an endgame in mind. Sure, maybe pick up the hottest commodity in the draft, but don’t let your investment go to waste within two years time. Tarbell was not developed well and simply put the responsibility is on San Jose. I suppose it’s not surprising the same organization that mishandled David Bingham is the one who mishandled Tarbell. We know Tarbell can play, as he’s shown in the past, so either the Earthquakes should have shipped him out when his value was still high or better prepared him for 2018. In hindsight, it seems like having him sit all of 2016 and half of 2017 wasn’t the best plan.

Both Marcinkowski and Tarbell are set to enter camp next March, where there will be plenty of quotes about it being an open competition, but the reality is that it San Jose is hoping Marcinkowski is ready to go for 2019.

Jan 14: Marcinkowski will be a strong goalkeeper, but he’s still very young. These next few years will be troublesome if they’re expecting him to start full-time, if not end up in a Zac MacMath situation. San Jose’s future in goalkeeping is murky to say the least. Tarbell could turn it around or Bersano could pull it out, but the odds aren’t in their favor. Projected N3Y Grade: D+

Seattle Sounders

Starter: Stefan Frei (32)
Backup:
Bryan Meredith (29)
In Reserve:
Trey Muse (19)
Coach: 
Tom Dutra

Youth Prospects
Ben Willis (Gonzaga, SR)
Paul Lewis (Loyola Marymount, JR)
Saif Kerawala (Washington, JR)
Tor Saunders (Akron, SO)
Sam Fowler (Washington, HS.SR)
Robert Harraka (Harvard, HS.SR)

In: none

Out:
Calle Brown (26, option declined)

USL Affiliate: Seattle II
Calle Brown (21 starts)

2018 Grade: B+
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: There was a bit of discourse on the Swiss-American goalkeeper but Frei was a real bright spot for me this season but looking forward, things look grim. This is the same organization that completely whiffed on Tyler Miller despite having him for two years. The Sounders found four games between two teenager goalkeepers Sam Fowler and Jacob Castro but the Sounders seem to still be searching for their footing going forward. Signing Trey Muse to a homegrown contract would be a positive step but something tells me they’re going to need more than one young signing to right the ship with their youth goalkeeping development.

Jan 2: Travis Clark tabs Trey Muse as the second best homegrown-eligible collegiate player. With an empty S2 right now, it could be a decent fit for the Hoosier.

Jan 7: To no real surprise, Brian Sciaretta is reporting Trey Muse is close to signing a homegrown contract.

Jan 15: The Trey Muse signing is now official. He should be the main goalkeeper at S2.

Sporting Kansas City

Starter: Tim Melia (31)
Backup:
Eric Dick (24) / Adrian Zendejas (23)
In Reserve:
TBD
Coach:
 Alec Dufty

Youth Prospects
Dakotah Bainter (UNC Asheville, JR)
Steven Tekesky (West Virginia, SO)
Freddy Lorenzen (Milwaukee, SO)
Alec Wons (Marquette, FR)
Alex Brown (Coastal Carolina, FR)
Connor Jordan-Hyde (Virginia Tech, FR)

In: none

Out:
none

USL Affiliate: Swope Park Rangers
Eric Dick (13 starts)
Adrian Zendejas (12 starts)

2018 Grade: B+
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: It’s always tough to follow up a Goalkeeper of the Year performance but Melia did well in goal this year. With no real doubt of him losing his starting spot until 2020 at the earliest. Dick and Zendejas battled it out at Swope Park, earning almost even playing time, which means they both were playing so well it was hard to pick or both were a little shaky and the coaches kept searching for the hot hand. It was a “boring” year for SKC narrative-wise, but one that may pay off in a couple years when the Wiz look to move on from Melia.

Toronto FC

Starter: Alex Bono (24)
Backup:
Caleb Patterson-Sewell (31)
In Reserve:
none
Coach:
 Jon Conway

Youth Prospects
Brogan Engbers (Liberty, Canada, SO)
Rimi Olatunji (Providence, Canada, FR)
Gianluca Catalano (Connecticut, Canada, FR)

In: none

Out: Clint Irwin (28, option declined, traded to Colorado)

USL Affiliate: Toronto FC II
Caleb Patterson-Sewell (19 starts)
Drew Shepherd (24, 1 start)

2018 Grade: C
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Bono was the flavor of the month for most 2017 with the media but with a poor showing by the team as a whole, Bono has been shelved for the time being. He certainly showed flashes of being a USMNT contender but he’s going to need Toronto to help him raise his profile back up. Toronto wisely declined Irwin’s contract extension (the backup was on $220,000) but he seems to have gained Toronto’s favor so I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought him back on a drastically reduced salary. He’s a trustworthy backup and a positive veteran to help keep pushing Bono forward.

A minor note was 2018 draftee Drew Shepherd lodging only 16 minutes before going down with a season-ending injury. He had the talent to steady Toronto’s USL side, if not more, so here’s hoping he can bounce back for a strong 2019.

Dec 13: You know you’ve done a good job when you’re able to trade an out of contract player and get something in return. Even though Toronto held Irwin’s rights, typically players whose options aren’t picked up are allowed to walk for free.

Jan 1: Matt Doyle projects Toronto to pick up Maryland goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair with the sixth overall pick. St. Clair is a tricky situation as he would count for an international player for any American team but for Toronto (or any other Canadian-based team) he won’t. Doyle says “it's a nice confluence of need + talent” but I don’t get the sense that Toronto needs a twenty-one year old goalkeeper to fix their alignments. Sixth overall seems a bit high and with Toronto’s crowded TF2 roster a bit unlikely, but he’s as heralded as Andre Blake was coming out of school so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Starter: TBD
Backup: 
Zac MacMath (27) / Maxime Crepeau (24)
In Reserve:
Sean Melvin (24)
Coach: 
Youssef Dahha

Youth Prospects
Trevor Schneider (UTRGV, Canada, Vancouver, 18)

In: Zac MacMath (traded from Colorado)
Maxime Crepeau (traded from Montreal)

Out: Stefan Marinovic (New Zealand, 27, option declined)
Brian Rowe (30, out of contract)
Spencer Richey (26, traded to Cincinnati)

USL Affiliate: Fresno FC
Kyle Reynish

2018 Grade: C-
Projected N3Y Grade:
tba

Bill says: Ahhh they’re outta here. Vancouver cleans house for the second year in a row after missing the playoffs. Marinovic was conceding over two goals a game and Rowe was getting even less playing time than him.

Dec 9: Whoa big day for the Whitecaps. MacMath and Crepeau brought in and the Whitecaps had to spend $150,000, a midfielder (9 games played), and a third-round draft pick for the two goalkeepers. A decent swap. I don’t know if MacMath + Crepeau are going to be able to shore up one of the worst defenses in the league but it’s a start. After being tired of sitting on the bench for so many years, it’ll be interesting to see how MacMath approaches his newfound lifeline. For my money, MacMath is the better goalkeeper but I wouldn’t rule out some growing pains in the first couple games, which could leave the door open for Crepeau to steal the starting spot.

Dec 12: The goalkeeper coach from the Ottawa Fury follows Crepeau over, giving some indication that Vancouver is leaning towards, at the very least, splitting time between the two.

Jan 14: An odd goalkeeping core to say the least. There might be some growing pains but I really like how the Whitecaps have essentially rounded up two polarizing goalkeepers and - I’m assuming - told them “Whoever is hot, we’re playing them.” Projected N3Y Grade: C+

Ranking the Eight Goalkeepers Left in the MLS Playoffs

It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally dwindled down to the final eight teams in the MLS playoffs. While I’m disappointed we won’t see a Guzan v Melia final, as both Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City have already been eliminated, we’ve already witnessed some great goalkeeping in the first round. Luis Robles, Tyler Deric and newly acquired Stefan Marinovic all posted shutouts, with Deric and Marinovic playing in their first career MLS playoff games. And despite ending up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, Andrew Dykstra and Brad Guzan played 240 minutes with only one goal conceded between the two (a GAA line of 0.375).

But the one goalkeeping performance that can’t be left out is Zack Steffen’s shutout and two penalty save night.

As if the eight saves in the 120 minutes wasn’t enough, Steffen put the icing on the cake when he saved two penalties and would have made it a third had it been on frame. Steffen was already receiving some USMNT shouts but after Wednesday night’s performance, he seems to be the frontrunner for the majority of fans.

Moving into the conference semifinals, there are eight goalkeepers all eyeing the prize of lifting the MLS Cup. While records reset, certain teams are certainly more favored than others. Mytopsportsbooks.com has Toronto FC and New York City FC as the frontrunners while Houston and New York are outside looking in. But for a team to reach the final, their goalkeeping will either make or break them down the final stretch, as we witnessed last year. Here are the top eight remaining goalkeepers in the playoffs and what to expect from each every one of them.

 

1. Stefan Frei - Seattle Sounders

(Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

(Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

What to expect: Many remember his save in the final last year but most forget that the save came largely after doing nothing all game. The save was a great testament to how focus and dedication can reward a goalkeeper. Frei comes in prepared, probably more than ever, and with a 7-3-3 playoff record under his belt. It’s exactly the type of goalkeeper you want in net this time of year. Don’t expect his saves to be mechanically clean, as Frei is known to be a little unorthodox, but he’s willing to put his body on the line any way possible to help his team. If Seattle aren’t repeat champions, it probably won’t be because of Frei’s mistakes.

 

2. Luis Robles - New York Red Bulls

(Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

(Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What to expect: Entering the conference semifinals, Robles and Frei combined for over 84% of career playoff games between the eight starting goalkeepers, although Robles is 5-7-3 (W-L-T) in postseason play. The Red Bulls are currently on an odd note, with only two wins in their last 11 regular season games but also a 4-0 stomping over the Fire in quarterfinals. For a team who has talent but not the consistency, added pressure is typically put on the goalkeeper for setting the right tone. Robles showed up Wednesday night and it’s fair to expect more clutch saves from Robles against Toronto.

 

3. Zack Steffen - Columbus Crew

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

What to expect: Steffen possesses a certain amount of poise that’s incredibly unique to not only his age bracket, but also MLS goalkeepers. He rarely gets riled up on a big save. Instead he keeps his cool, acting like he’s done it a million times already. It’s a fascinating display and the Crew really seem to feed off of it. He’s already made noise with his penalty heroics but his 1v1 and aerial game aren't his strong suits. His athleticism typically overtakes any shortcomings in his game and it's worked well for him in most cases. If a team can catch Steffen in an unconfident position, they won’t have to face him in a penalty shootout, but it won't be an easy task.

 

4. Tyler Deric - Houston Dynamo

(Trask Smith)

(Trask Smith)

What to expect: Out of all of my favorite lateral movements, Deric has my favorite. It’s akin to Oliver Kahn’s two footed hop, instead of the more popular step and drive method. Both Deric and Kahn's dive pushes off with their back leg but without taking power away from the lead step. It’s a tough mechanic but it’s why Deric has a Michael Jordan gravity defying leap. (Yes, I just compared Deric to both Oliver Kahn and Michael Jordan in the same paragraph.) However Deric, like many others, doesn’t have the playoff experience to fall back on and has yet to build a resume of clutch saves. It’s a great platform for Deric to show the league that he’s been underreported, but it’s also new territory for him as well.

 

5. Alex Bono - Toronto FC

( Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports )

( Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports )

What to expect: After some less than outstanding seasons in the USL, the 23 year old Syracuse alum has put the pieces together in his first year as a starter with Toronto. Bono’s defense have done a wonderful job of letting Bono focus on his game without giving him added headaches. Bono still has room to grow when it comes to close range reactions and priority managing in awkward situations, as displayed in his 5-3 loss to Montreal back in September. If Toronto can continue to play their defense and Bono keeps his consistency he’s gained throughout the year, the Toronto goalkeeper’s first playoff run can be a strong highlight in his career

 

6. Stefan Marinovic - Vancouver Whitecaps

stefan_marinovic_el_muro_de_nueva_zelanda_1280x720_956013635931.jpg

What to expect: The league isn't too familiar with the New Zealander, outside that he’s taken over the starting spot from David Ousted. Marinovic isn’t as near as flashy as Ousted but it works well for him. He’s not going to be coughing up any major mistakes as he’s already been capped by New Zealand 22 times. While I don’t think Marinovic is going to make any major mistakes, I’m curious how his communication is going to hold up in pressure situations with the language barrier, especially for a defense that’s known for leaking shots.

 

7. Sean Johnson - New York City FC

(AP)

(AP)

What to expect: It’s bizarre to think that Johnson has only one playoff game in his seven years with Chicago until you remember he was playing for the Fire. Johnson has seen a resurgence in his career since coming to New York but, similar to Bono and Deric, he doesn’t possess a history of playoff experience and years of consistency under his belt. Johnson relies on his quick reactions and long frame to produce saves and it's worked well this year. While he definitely has sped up his footwork, Johnson’s limited lateral footwork can still get him into hot water. If there’s a low shot to his side that requires him to move his feet or make quick decisions in the box, he may have a hard time keeping the ball out of the net.

 

8. Jeff Attinella - Portland Timbers

(USA Today Sports Images)

(USA Today Sports Images)

What to expect: Yet another goalkeeper without any playoff experience. 29 year old Jeff Attinella has only 43 MLS games to his name, less than Johnson has over the last two years. Attinella is a really interesting case because he shares similarities to a young goalkeeper who still needs to figure out awkward, sprawling situations. However Attinella carries a chip on his shoulder as a goalkeeper in his position must have. After being told you’re just the backup for a number of years, a goalkeeper either fights through it or fades out. Attinella’s frame of mind is sharp and if the Timbers defense lets Attinella do his job without any Omar Gonzalez-esque shots on goal, then the veteran keeper will have a fine playoff run.

The 50 Greatest MLS Goalkeepers of All-Time

MLS enters its 22nd season next month and while there hasn't been an overwhelmingly amount of goalkeepers in the league's history - only 170 so far - we've still seen a number of great goalkeepers come through the league. But who are the best of the best?

There are a number of ways to determine the league's top goalkeepers. Depending on how much you want to weigh talent, achievements, and time in the league, you could come up with a number of different orders. This list is centered less on statistics and more on when the goalkeeper played in the league. If the goalkeeper played a number of games well past his prime, or too far in front of it, then his time in his league isn't as valuable as certain goalkeepers with less appearances. Simply by appearing in the league isn't a good barometer of the best, as a look at the top twenty goalkeepers with the most games played in MLS history shows us.

Rimando - Jeff Swinger/USA TODAY Sports
Reis - Jason Gulledge
Howard - Getty Images

1. Kevin Hartman (416 Games, 1997-2012)
2. Nick Rimando (424 Games, 2000-present)
3. Jon Busch (309 Games, 2002-2015)
4. Pat Onstad (223 Games, 2003-2011)
5. Matt Reis (293 Games, 1998-2013)
6. Joe Cannon (342 Games, 1999-2013)
7. Zach Thornton (282 Games, 1996-2011)
8. Tony Meola (250 Games, 1996-2006)
9. Scott Garlick (237 Games, 1997-2006)
10. Tim Howard (102 Games, 1998-2003, 2016-present)

Bill says: There could be a case for twenty or more goalkeepers to be included here, depending on what criteria you use. Most fans are familiar with the majority here and will compliment them for having such long careers. While some will talk about certain goalkeepers being ageless, Pat Onstead playing until 43 without fading into a shadow of himself is the gold standard. 1997 MLS Cup winner Scott Garlick is often overlooked as well, who spent over a decade in the league. But however you want to rank them, at the end of the day it's Hartman and Rimando battling out the top spot.

11. Luis Robles (140 Games, 2012-present)
12. Troy Perkins (217 Games, 2005-2007, 2010-2015)
13. Will Hesmer (133 Games, 2006-2011)
14. David Ousted (114 Games, 2013-present)
15. Marcus Hahnemann (70 Games, 1997-1999, 2013)
16. Bo Oshoniyi (109 Games, 1996, 2000-2006)
17. Ian Feuer (45 Games, 1998-1999)
18. Matt Pickens (156 Games, 2005-2007, 2009-2013)
19. Dan Kennedy (163 Games, 2008-present)
20. Kasey Keller (93 Games, 2009-2011)

Bill says: Ian Feuer is a great example of a truly outstanding goalkeeper who gets a boost here despite the lack of games played. Perkins quietly earned over 200 appearances in the league, only one of ten goalkeepers to do so, which I think most recent fans gloss over for not seeing him in his prime. Robles, Ousted, and Kennedy are probably more familiar to fans than Bo Oshoinyi or even Will Hesmer, whose career was cut short due to injuries but the 2008 MLS Cup winner had a successful career nonetheless.

21. Mike Ammann (125 Games, 1996-2001)
22. Jorge Campos (52 Games, 1996-1998)
23. Brad Friedel (38 Games, 1996-1997)
24. Andy Gruenebaum (91 Games, 2006-2014)
25. Stefan Frei (180 Games, 2009-present)
26. Donovan Ricketts (188 Games, 2009-2015)
27. Bill Hamid (160 Games, 2010-present)
28. Walter Zenga (47 Games, 1997-1998)
29. Mark Dodd (92 Games, 1996-1999)
30. Mark Dougherty (123 Games, 1996-2001)

Bill says: Typically MLS 1.0 is frowned upon for the quality of play but the league started off with a strong goalkeeper presence from day one. Jorge Campos didn't stay in the league long but alongside Ammann, Dodd, Dougherty, Friedel, and Zenga, the first goalkeepers set a strong standard for the league. Bill Hamid will likely be challenging for the top ten in a few years if he continues to push off a move overseas.

31. Tally Hall (153 Games, 2010-2015)
32. Steve Clark (100 Games, 2014-2016)
33. Bouna Coundoul (99 Games, 2006-2011)
34. Juergen Sommer (54 Games, 1998-2002)
35. Brad Guzan (79 Games, 2005-2008)
36. Chris Woods (23 Games, 1996-1996)
37. Evan Bush (79 Games, 2012-present)
38. Jon Conway (88 Games, 2000-2011)
39. Adin Brown (85 Games, 2000-2005)
40. Jonny Walker (58 Games, 2003-2006)

Bill says: USMNT goalkeeping hipsters will recognize Sommer and Woods. Sommer was the first American goalkeeper overseas in England while Woods was England's first goalkeeper in MLS, who would later be the USMNT goalkeeper coach. Adin Brown and Jonny Walker are mostly remembered for what could have been. Both were once promising young goalkeepers who had their careers derailed due to injuries.

41. Tom Presthus (106 Games, 1997-2003)
42. Greg Sutton (53 Games, 1999-2000, 2007-2012)
43. Raúl Fernández (47 Games, 2013-2014)
44. Tyler Deric (55 Games, 2009-present)
45. Tim Melia (56 Games, 2012-present)
46. Jeff Cassar (79 Games, 1996-2006)
47. David Bingham (73 Games, 2011-present)
48. Jaime Penedo (54 Games, 2013-2015)
49. David Kramer (106 Games, 1996-2002)
50. Mark Simpson (53 Games, 1996-2001)

Bill says: A mix of hidden gems and recent stars. Mark Simpson started in the first MLS final. Tom Presthus earned one cap with the USMNT, and probably would be starting today if he had come along twenty years later. Veterans Jeff Cassar and David Kramer were constantly battling off top goalkeepers within the league but similar to Presthus, would likely be more successful in a league with twice as many teams.

How Important Is the MLS Superdraft for Goalkeepers?

cover photo by Andy Mead

The 2017 MLS Draft wrapped up last week and teams are racing to fill out their varsity roster, as well as sorting out who will spend the year with their USL affiliate. Depending on how much they want to stock up, each team is needing anywhere from three to six goalkeepers. The past month has seen scouting reports, projections, and several write-ups for recent senior graduates and possible roster signees, but for all the fanfare surrounding the rookies, it's no secret it wears off quickly.

Already we've seen two goalkeepers from the 2016 class - Ryan Herman and Chris Froschauer - be dropped by the team that drafted them without much of a word about it. I suppose "sophomore season" narratives aren't as engaging to readers but perhaps there are better options for MLS teams finding a goalkeeper.

 

MLS's Search for Starting Goalkeepers

Over the last twenty years multiple teams have brought in an older goalkeeper from Europe or South America. Goalkeepers are known for their longevity so signing a goalkeeper late into his career can still give the team four to five years to work with. There's no denying how excited fans get when they hear marquee names attached to the league, like the ongoing rumor of Iker Casillas coming over.

The disappointing reality is that MLS teams simply can't (or shouldn't) chase elite goalkeepers at this time. If salary cap or designated player rules get tweaked in the future, MLS teams might be able to spend more freely on the last line of defense. Until then, it doesn't make sense for MLS to spend millions on a position that could conceivably make zero meaningful contributions in a game. There's a reason why there has only ever been one designated player that was a goalkeeper, and it just happens to be the most iconic American goalkeeper of all-time.

Alternatively, every team would love to sign a homegrown goalkeeper and develop him to the point where he eventually takes over as their starter. There are several incentives for signing a young prospect. Fans are always buzzing over an academy player joining the first team, there is no salary cap hit if a player is under a homegrown contract, and signing a player that young gives the team more control over the player's development. Or so we would think. The truth is homegrown goalkeepers have been scarce since their beginnings, with the league only signing 11 since 2008.

As of right now, there are no signs that teams will start signing more goalkeepers as HGPs. Currently they're more than content to let them develop in the college game. Some MLS teams will even push for young players to sign with their USL affiliate, in order to not have to pay more with an MLS contract, even if it doesn't count against the salary cap.

Some teams have looked abroad to sign a young goalkeeper, also at a low price. New York City signed Norwegian YNT goalkeeper Eirik Johansen back in 2015 as a 22 year old and LA Galaxy also signed Clément Diop, a 23 year old French goalkeeper last year. However these are less seen than homegrowns, due to the numerous difficulties in bringing in a foreigner at such a young age.

While some are quick to dismiss the college draft, at the end of the day it's the best cost-effective route for getting goalkeepers into the league. Foreigners (that are worth bringing in) are going to cost more than an American goalkeeper. Vancouver's Danish goalkeeper David Ousted makes $360,000 while Tim Melia is only at $150,000, yet no one would say Ousted is twice the goalkeeper as Melia. Even if your starter is not going to be an American, you will need to save money on the backup, which likely will be a domestic goalkeeper from the college game. 

It should be noted that there are some examples of college grads making it into MLS that aren't American - most notably Andre Blake (UConn, Jamaica) and Bouna Coundoul (Albany, Senegal) - but most will be domestic players. In fact if a college grad isn't American, it's all the more unlikely for a team to use an international slot on a player that's not going to see the field for some time. 

 

Getting the Most Out of the College Game

For the rest of the article, this document is referenced. I listed every SuperDraft pick, combine invite (dating back to 2003), Generation Adidas signing, and homegrown goalkeeper. Some fun stats are scattered throughout the doc. 

Figure 1 - Includes drafted, homegrowns, and Generation Adidas goalkeepers. Essentially all goalkeepers that would be considered a prospect.

Figure 1 - Includes drafted, homegrowns, and Generation Adidas goalkeepers. Essentially all goalkeepers that would be considered a prospect.

Figure 2 - The "1995 draft" is the inaugural draft, which was a little under half of college graduates but accurately occurred prior to the 1996 season The "1996 draft" is the college draft, also before the 1996 season.

Figure 2 - The "1995 draft" is the inaugural draft, which was a little under half of college graduates but accurately occurred prior to the 1996 season The "1996 draft" is the college draft, also before the 1996 season.

The first question we need to answer is about the draft's relevancy. Is the draft merely there to fill out the roster or can it produce starters in the league as well?

Splitting the league's all-time goalkeeper pool into two camps, we start to see how important American development has been for MLS goalkeepers. Only 14% of all MLS starts have been from a goalkeeper who wasn't draft-eligible. These are mostly foreigners who played in another country, although there are some Americans skipped the draft to go pro (Friedel and Keller, for example). The other 86% of starts have been from draft-eligible prospects (college grads, Generation Adidas, and homegrown players). Again, the cost-effectiveness of the college game has played a large part in the league's goalkeeper history. Interestingly enough, 25% of starts have come from undrafted - but could have been drafted - goalkeepers, meaning that undrafted goalkeepers have almost been twice as involved in the league as imported talent.

Knowing there is talent in every draft class, now we are left wondering just how productive the draft is for teams. It's always tricky to predict who will or won't be a potential starter but clearly some teams have done better than others. For example, New England being unable to convert nine prospects into anything worthwhile isn't good. Sporting Kansas City and Colorado have also struggled to find a good fit as well. (See figure 1)

One starting point is comparing MLS starts of young prospects versus undrafted goalkeepers. For this exercise, goalkeepers like Jorge Campos or Brad Friedel will not be included because they weren't draft eligible. (See figure 2)

Looking at the first few years, MLS was getting it right for the most part. The inaugural draft missed some notable keepers with Scott Garlick (237 appearances), Pat Onstad (223), Mike Ammann (125), and Marcus Hahnemann (70) but after that, only Joe Cannon (342) and Preston Burpo (57) made waves in the league.

The main reason is likely that MLS only had 10-12 teams for the first decade, so they only had to scout the best of the best. There wasn't a need to be thorough because there was only so much room for goalkeepers. The best goalkeepers stood out in college and that was all that mattered. Teams held only two goalkeepers (around 20-25 goalkeeping spots in the league), as opposed to now where teams will field two to three times as many, with USL affiliates bolstering the number. As MLS started to expand, more slots started to open up to the point where we now see ten goalkeepers being selected in the 2017 draft.

It's too early to say the fate of the last four classes, but we can start to see the how after 2003, overlooked goalkeepers started to trickle in. Perhaps the most bizarre year was 2008, when incoming players combined for zero appearances. Folklore legends Josh Lambo (U17, U20 starter), Dominic Cervi (USMNT call-up), and Brian Edwards (Wake Forest standout and NCAA Champion) were all outplayed for the likes of Tim Melia (Division II Lynn University, 56 appearances), Joe Nasco (Division III Birmingham-Southern, 4), and Lance Parker (Missouri State, 4).

Even through expansion and additional roster spot openings, the draft has showed that it can still produce the desired talent despite teams regularly missing it.

Click here for more stats on goalkeeper prospects.

 

Press Doesn't Equal Success

Every combine goalkeeper since 2003. Gm/yr was maxed out at 10 years, as seen with Perkins and Kennedy.

Every combine goalkeeper since 2003. Gm/yr was maxed out at 10 years, as seen with Perkins and Kennedy.

It's an odd to see goalkeepers that are good enough for MLS go untouched. Surely teams would notice if someone could cover the admittedly large gap from college to the professional game. What's even more odd is comparing how heralded goalkeepers don't fare that much better than the table scraps.

Counting the appearances between combine invites (and even throwing in homegrowns, GAs, and first round picks) versus every other goalkeeper that could be drafted (again, leaving out Campos, Friedel, and others), it's only 53-47% in favor of goalkeepers who are receiving media attention. There are actually more combine washouts (supposedly the cream of the crop) than goalkeepers who are overlooked yet make it into the league (43-33).

In the first decade, MLS could simply rely on word of mouth for the best goalkeepers coming out of the college game. Now that more teams are vying for the best goalkeepers - and more are getting selected in the draft - teams can't expect the press or the combine to do their research for them.

The touted goalkeepers don't end up fairing that much better than the rest of the bunch. Dating back to 2003, the current combine invite has a median career game appearances of zero. Still, some teams are confident in just accessing the four to six goalkeepers invited to the combine.

 

So How Important Is the College Draft?

Incredibly, but that doesn't mean the press surrounding the draft is equally valuable. The college game isn't at the point where teams can just throw a dart at a wall and find a starting goalkeeper. 76% of combine invites get drafted yet only 29% of combine invites end up being a success within the league. Even worse, only 18% of prospects end up being a success for a given team, meaning teams are moving on too quickly moving on from their draft picks. 

+/- =  tm.succ - (prospects - tm.succ) - (lg.succ - tm.succ) ... essentially counting all the times a team got it right, with a penalty for losing a good goalkeeper

+/- =  tm.succ - (prospects - tm.succ) - (lg.succ - tm.succ) ... essentially counting all the times a team got it right, with a penalty for losing a good goalkeeper

MLS's goalkeeping future is hard to predict. For teams trying to get the most out of their money, the emphasis should be on the academy to develop their goalkeepers. However, the majority of teams aren't as patient and resort to battling the rest of the league to find a promising goalkeeper in the draft. Perhaps we will see teams be more creative in how they bring in goalkeepers but that will likely be dependent on rule changes. Until then, it seems like the landscape isn't going to change and neither is the pipeline for American goalkeepers.

If teams aren't willing to craft their own goalkeeper, they have to do something to give themselves an advantage over their competitors. We know there is talent in the college game, it's just a matter of finding it early and not years after they graduate. As we enter 2017, teams are starting to separate themselves as to those who are content with listening to the noise, and those who know that finding a young goalkeeper starts before January.