USL Expansion Is Saving the American Goalkeeper

cover photo from Soccer Today

For the past few years there’s been a growing concern about the development of the American player. With MLS putting heavy resources into bringing foreign players into the league, the future for domestic talent was left unclear. Questions surfaced about MLS’ ability to simultaneously rise the overall talent level of the league and aide the development for Americans at the same time.

Heading into 2018, MLS goalkeepers’ salaries had stagnated in their growth. While it was a problem for the league’s position regardless of nationality, it was a pretty clear sign that American goalkeepers weren’t seeing as much of an investment from the league as other positions were. As teams across the league looked for their Wayne Rooney-equivalent, they also refrained from shelling out for goalkeepers. The past decade has been earmarked with the league cutting corners on not only developing young players but also getting top goalkeepers in the league, which unsurprisingly were tied to each other.

MLS has unrolled nine new teams (and lost one) since 2010. The new roster spots have been a nice addition for American players who couldn’t catch on elsewhere in MLS, but the lower leagues have shown more substantial gains in real estate. In the same time span that MLS grew by eight teams, lower tiers (a combination of USL, NASL, and NISA) have grown by a total of 32 teams.

Expanding the American Goalkeeper Landscape

How many American goalkeepers earned 10 league appearances by year and age. The top chart is by percentage, while the bottom chart is raw numbers. 2019 are projections.

How many American goalkeepers earned 10 league appearances by year and age. The top chart is by percentage, while the bottom chart is raw numbers. 2019 are projections.

To best show how the landscape has changed for American goalkeepers, I tracked every goalkeeper who made 10 league appearances since 2010 by year and age. It’s not a perfect method, but the goal was to see how teams invested their most valuable (league competition) and regular playing time when it came to their goalkeepers. While late round USOC and CCL games are treated important, most teams’ lineups vary from B+ to C- squads in the early rounds so league play was the most consistent standard when gauging teams’ investments.

Looking at the two charts, the yellow-to-white-to-blue scale shows the slices of each group by year. The 34 and older age group has dwindled significantly since 2010, while the 22-25 has doubled. “Non-US” accounts all players who can’t play for the USMNT, with the age of the goalkeeper being irrelevant for this category. Similarly, the second chart (green-white-blue) gives the raw numbers for each section.

Again, it’s important to note that these numbers are not roster spots, but a gauge of playing time MLS, USL and NASL teams devoted to the goalkeeping position. It’s one thing to make the game day roster, it’s quite another to play a third of the team’s games. Looking at the numbers, there are three major trends that immediately stand out.

1. Playing time for foreign goalkeepers has stayed fairly consistent - It’s hard to say what a good share of foreigners is in any country’s pyramid should be. When considering American development within the professional game, it’s good to remember that it’s not about removing foreigners but simply getting the correct talent in place. If a MLS, USL, and NISA team can find a better player - in any position - at an appropriate price, raising the level of competition serves teammates and opposition well, regardless of nationality.

A notable example of seeing the influence of a high profile athlete transcending nationalities can be found in Peter Schmeichel’s recounting of Gordon Banks’ save against Pele in the 1970 World Cup. The Brit’s performance (a decade before the Danish goalkeeper started as a professional) inspired Schmeichel to play at a higher level, even later recreating his own take on the save. This sort of standard is why goalkeepers like Pat Onstad, Jaime Penedo, and Jorge Campos are important to the American landscape. It’s a tangible goal players (current and young) to aspire towards.

The average age of a professional American goalkeeper has dropped from 29 (2010) to 25.77 (2015) and currently sits at 25.83 (2019).

The average age of a professional American goalkeeper has dropped from 29 (2010) to 25.77 (2015) and currently sits at 25.83 (2019).

2. Professional American goalkeepers are getting younger - The big reason why the average age has dipped is because USL teams - not MLS - are taking more chances on the recent college graduates. MLS is notorious for struggling to play youngsters, only recently empowering their U23 players. Yet the USL has been increasingly kind to young players and are the main reason for why 35.6% of the counted goalkeepers land in the 22-25 age range.

The trend is now bleeding into the 18-21 age bracket, with five college-aged Americans earning ten league starts in 2018. Ten goalkeepers are currently on track to double last year’s numbers. It’s hard to see where the ceiling is for U20 goalkeepers getting time but for now American goalkeepers are getting younger by the minute.

3. Late teenagers are opting out of college - Los Angeles Galaxy’s USL side paved the way for USL teams knowing how to place responsibility on a young goalkeeper’s shoulders. Originally leaning on early-to-mid 20 year olds like Brian Rowe, Brian Perk and Celement Diop, Galaxy reset their course and immediately invested in Eric Lopez, giving the 17-year-old a dozen starts in 2017, the most for any goalkeeper on the roster. They doubled down on their commitment to young goalkeepers by bringing in Justin vom Steeg and Abraham Romero.

Since then, Abraham Rodriguez (16, Colorado Springs), Aaron Cervantes (17, Orange County), David Ochoa (17, Real Monarchs), Luca Mancuso (17, Orlando B), and Max Trejo (17, Swope Park Rangers) have all earned a start in USL action just one month into the season. Perhaps most notably, two of these five goalkeepers aren’t MLS affiliates, meaning teams that aren’t a direct feeder into an MLS side are starting to invest in young players as well. It’s an unheard time in American goalkeeping and one that will start to undo the fractured goalkeeping environment that’s plagued player development for the past two decades.

Where do we go from here?

It’s been a painfully slow progress to get to this point but the last few years have seen doors open in ways that didn’t exist before. Ultimately if MLS teams want to continue to flip future Zack Steffens for $8-to-10 million dollars, they need to continue to flesh out player development for 18-23 year olds. If the NCAA continues to show no interest in adapting to the modern game and best serve the student-athlete, the responsibility falls on the USL to help bridge the gap for aspiring players to reach their potential. A few years ago, signing with a USL side for $8,000 only to sit the bench was less than a desirable option, but with promising roads being paved to MLS and perhaps beyond, don’t be surprised to see even more young players jump straight to the pro game as soon as possible.

15 Foreign Goalkeepers Who Would Be a Good Fit in MLS

cover photo belongs to AFP

We’ve recently seen two major developments that put MLS goalkeeping in a prime place to invest more than ever. First, the massive spending on goalkeepers like Alisson ($70 million) and Kepa Arrizabalaga ($90 million) is creating a ripple effect that will jump every goalkeeper’s price tag moving forward. The record transfer fee for a goalkeeper has doubled in the past year and this will trickle down to the rest of the group. Second, transfer fees for outbound MLS players are also rising as European clubs are willing to spend more on MLS’s stars. Most notably, Zack Steffen earned a potential $10 million transfer fee as well as Miguel Almirón’s recent $27 million signing with Newcastle.

On the heels of my last post with American Soccer Analysis (“Ranking MLS’ Best Foreign Goalkeepers”), it’s clear that MLS’ tactic of looking for $0 transfer fees to bring in foreign talent isn’t yielding great results for the league. While any sensible red-blooded American would love to see potential USMNT starters litter MLS’s goalkeeping ranks, bringing in top foreign talent raises the overall level of play, leaving positive long term effects on American goalkeeper development. Foreign talent is not detrimental for the league, but subpar foreign talent is.

Before we can look at our possible candidates, we have to set some criteria to make these hypothetical transfers somewhat realistic.

  1. 21-26 year olds - If they’re too young (under 21) the best you can realistically hope for is a loan as the parent club is hoping to maximize the player’s potential transfer fee. They’re unlikely to sell a 19-year-old for $4-5 million when they may be able to sell for $10-15 million, assuming they can get the goalkeeper to the right level in a couple years.

    Older goalkeepers aren’t necessarily a bad option but you run the risk of getting a Carlo Cudicini-esque situation (a once talented goalkeeper playing with zero motivation) or having to dish out a seven-figure transfer fee for a goalkeeper you may or may not get three years out of with no re-sell value. Even at 27, if they stay in MLS for a couple years, it’s unlikely a European team is going to shell out for a 29-year-old goalkeeper.

  2. Low transfer fee - Despite the league entering its 24th year, MLS teams are still reluctant to pay for goalkeepers. Perhaps in a few more years teams will spend big on the position but as of right now the money simply isn’t quite there yet. However, the bright side is that Steffen and Almiron have given reason for MLS teams to invest even more on young players.

    Steffen’s sale is additionally notable as Manchester City already have two elite goalkeepers sandwiching Steffen in age. Manchester City spent $40 million on Ederson (25) two summers ago and Guardiola has so much faith in Arijanet Muric (20) that he’s been promoted to the second string after Claudio Bravo’s injury. Ultimately Manchester City is willing to pay $10 million for a goalkeeper who has a strong chance of never becoming a starter, meaning there’s an even higher ceiling for MLS goalkeepers yet.

    Considering MLS’ reluctance to spend combined with an uptick in goalkeeper’s prices, included goalkeepers are held to a mandatory sub-€5,000,000 listing on Transfermarkt in order for MLS teams to more confidently capture a return. While Transfermarkt isn’t the gospel, it’s as close to a public resource that we have.

  3. Reason to transfer - The last hurdle is perhaps the largest one. Thinking of MLS as a springboard league, a goalkeeper has to come from the right situation before landing in the US. While Greece or Belgium aren’t exactly the best leagues in the world, they are great stepping stones for players trying to get to higher leagues. If a goalkeeper is playing consistently in Turkey or Sweden, a lateral move to MLS as an attempt to jump to a larger league is highly unlikely.

    With this, there are two types of potential MLS goalkeepers that could use a destination change. First, goalkeepers can raise their stock by playing in a higher profile league (MLS, in this case) than certain South American or Asian ones. The second type is a goalkeeper who is not regularly playing in a comparable league. If a backup in Belgium’s First Division is pegged only as such, coming to MLS could serve as a proving ground to resuscitate his career.

The fifteen goalkeepers are listed with basic information, their converted Transfermarkt listing (from euros to dollars), and a projected sell price.

1. Jo Hyeon-woo
Daegu FC (South Korea)
26, South Korean

TM Listing: $2,200,000
Projected:
$6,000,000

2018 World Cup darling Jo Hyeon-woo won over fans by displaying a stunning combination of grit and agility, with his standout game coming against Germany ultimately putting the nail in the German’s World Cup run. Jo might need a couple years in MLS to establish himself as the number one starter for South Korea, but if he’s able to do that, reaching Europe shouldn’t be a problem. Even though a sub-$7 million fee may not sound like a worthwhile investment, there could be some long term implications with helping Jo get to Europe. Like South America, the right players coming out of Asia could find success by using MLS to propel their career even further.

2. Ezequiel Unsain
Defensa y Justicia (Argentina)
23, Argentinian

TM Listing: $3,870,000
Projected:
$9,500,000

It’s likely that Unsain’s club is well aware of his ceiling so obtaining him at the current listing may be something too low for Defensa. MLS could be a couple years too late to bring him in but he’s yet to make a splash on the international scene, which could help keep his transfer fee low for now. There’s a reluctance with American media outlets to trust South American goalkeepers due to their flamboyant play style, but Unsain instills an element of aggressiveness and bravery (think Lukasz Fabianski) to his free flowing style, which makes him fit MLS all the better.

3. Mouez Hassen
Nice (France)
23, Tunisian

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$8,000,000

Hassen has unfortunately turned into a bit of a commodity with Nice. After receiving an injury in the opening game of the World Cup (not long after this amazing save) he’s fallen to the third string on the depth chart. He’s been rumored to be heading to Ligue 2 but there haven’t been waves since so we’re leaving him on the list for now. Despite being a little undersized, the “Tunisian Nick Rimando” (copyright pending) would be a perfect fit for MLS teams willing to let yet another “short” goalkeeper succeed in net.

4. Alex Remiro
Athletic Bilbao (Spain)
23, Spanish

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$10,500,000

Remiro is admittedly a bit of a reach as the Spanish goalkeeper has been included at a variety of levels with Spain’s youth system. Things are complicated all the further with Bilbao being the club that sold Kepa last summer, now owning a rep for churning out top goalkeepers. His one million Euro listing is likely far too low, but he is also stuck behind Iago Herrerín (31) and Unai Simón (21) on the depth chart. Bilbao may not be excited to part with Remiro but if a decent price comes along, any team will sell their backup in a heartbeat.

5. Wuilker Fariñez
Millonarios (Venezuela)
21, Venezuelan

TM Listing: $3,870,000
Projected:
$14,700,000

There’s a sweet spot with signing young talent. You don’t want to wait too long (high transfer fee) but you don’t want to buy too early (unproven and haven’t finished developing yet). Fariñez may just have past that peak as the Venezuelan goalkeeper already has a dozen starts for the national team. He’ll surely end up in Europe at some point, it just depends on when and how. Millonarios could look at Josef Martínez as a big success and might be swayed to send Fariñez on up. It’s entirely conceivable that Millonarios won’t settle for less than an eight-figure fee but if it’s in the $5-7 range, it’d certainly be worth MLS’s time to try their hand.

6. Baptiste Valette
Nîmes (France)
26, French

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$4,500,000

Valette was the number one goalkeeper for Nîmes during their promotion run last season but has since been relegated to the bench after the club brought in highly touted youngster Paul Bernardoni on loan. Regardless if Nîmes decide to bring Bernardoni back on loan next season, they’ve essentially communicated with Valette they want to go another direction from him. Valette could probably find another gig in the second league but might be better served by proving himself elsewhere to avoid being known as a second division goalkeeper.

7. Denis Scherbitski
BATE Borisov (Belarus)
22, Belarusian

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$9,000,000

Shcherbitski will be tricky to obtain as he’s destined for greater things and Belarus’ top club is probably in the know. MLS teams will have to throw a serious offer on the table but seeing as top goalkeepers have come from smaller countries (Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas, Etrit Berisha, Lukas Hradecky, Lukasz Fabianski) there’s a proven market for goalkeepers from atypical football countries.

8. Colin Coosemans
KAA Gent (Belgium)
26, Belgian

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$5,500,000

Gent is currently sitting on four goalkeepers, all under 30, and Coosemans is either the third or fourth string. Despite being brought in last summer, the former U21 goalkeeper is in need of a new home ASAP. Voetbal24 points out that “there is actually no Belgian club that is really looking for a new goalkeeper” so a pitstop to MLS makes some sense.

9. Kosuke Nakamura
Kashiwa Reysol (Japan)
23, Japanese

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$3,400,000

The quad capped Japanese goalkeeper is currently residing in Japan’s second division due to his loyalty to the club, despite being recently relegated. Kashiwa Reysol will surely want to keep one of their country’s top goalkeepers but Nakamura may be Japan’s best shot to put Japanese goalkeeping on the radar for European clubs. Second division Japanese football is certainly below Nakamura’s level of play while MLS is just his speed. Nakamura has some strong parallels to Tim Melia’s play style and would fit in nicely with the competition.

10. Zauri Makharadze
Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine)
25, Georgian

TM Listing: $1,300,000
Projected:
$3,500,000

Makharadze joined Zorya Luhansk last July but has since then struggled to make a consistent impact with the team opting for 21-year-old Brazilian Luis Felipe. If Makharadze doesn’t have a future with the club, jumping to another club as a backup is always tricky. Makharadze doesn’t have the surest hands but he’s surprisingly quick for how big he is, being reminiscent of Andre Blake in that regard. If the Georgian goalkeeper can’t get his next step figured out, MLS would be a decent option to turn to.

Best of the Rest

11. Ivan Konovalov
Rubin Kazan (Russia)
24, Russian

TM Listing: $2,600,000
Projected:
$7,000,000

12. Predrag Rajkovic
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
23, Serbian

TM Listing: $3,200,000
Projected:
$10,000,000

13. Valentin Cojocaru
FC Viitorul (Romania)
23, Romanian

TM Listing: $970,000
Projected: $4,500,000

14. Lucas Chaves
Argentinos (Argentina)
23, Argentine

TM Listing: $1,000,000
Projected:
$5,000,000

15. Facundo Altamirano
Club Atlético Banfield (Argentina)
22, Argentine

TM Listing: $770,000
Projected:
$3,000,000

Top 100 American Goalkeepers - January 2019

cover photo belongs to Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer

2019 brings many new promises and surprises, including a brief rundown of the top 100 American goalkeepers on the men’s side. This go-round we’ll be focusing in on one specific goalkeeper, instead of giving a snapshot of 4-5 different ones, by highlighting the one who has the most riding on 2019. (Essentially the one with the most interesting narrative.) Most highlighted goalkeepers are in their mid-to-late 20s, as goalkeepers in the back end of their 20s aren’t bestowed second chances as often as early 20-year-olds are.

1. Tim Melia, 31 - Sporting Kansas City
2. Stefan Frei, 32 - Seattle Sounders
3. Ethan Horvath, 23 - Club Brugge
4. Zack Steffen, 23 - Columbus Crew
5. Brad Guzan, 34 - Atlanta United
6. Jeff Attinella, 30 - Portland Timbers
7. Joe Willis, 30 - Houston Dynamo
8. Alex Bono, 24 - Toronto FC
9. Luis Robles, 34 - New York Red Bulls
10. Jimmy Maurer, 31 - FC Dallas

Breakout or Bust Year: Ethan Horvath. With the 2019 Gold Cup this summer and the USMNT’s first run in the CONCACAF Nations League in the fall, 2019 should be a lot of fun with Horvath and Steffen duking it out for the number one spot. Public perception seems to think it’s Steffen’s job to lose but with how well Horvath played in UEFA Champions League matches - notching three shutouts against Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, and Monaco - it dwarfs Steffen’s MLS quarterfinalist run. Critics have often doubted Horvath’s consistency, which makes these next six months all the more important for him to prove himself. In some sense, it feels like Horvath and Guzan have some parallels, periodically showing flashes of brilliance paired with moments of regret. If Horvath can have a strong spring, Steffen may not be the only American goalkeeper making a big move in the summer. However if it’s more of 2017-18’s up-and-downs, Horvath could have a long road to realistically challenge for the number one spot again.

11. Patrick McLain, 30 - Free Agent
12. Joe Bendik, 29 - Columbus Crew
13. Tim Howard, 39 - Colorado Rapids
14. Bill Hamid, 28 - DC United
15. Nick Rimando, 39 - Real Salt Lake
16. Tyler Miller, 25 - Los Angeles FC
17. Steve Clark, 32 - Portland Timbers
18. Evan Bush, 32 - Montreal Impact
19. Spencer Richey, 26 - Cincinnati FC
20. Evan Newton, 30 - Free Agent

Breakout or Bust Year: Spencer Richey. While I believe Pat McLain showed the ability to take on a starting position in the league, the real pressure lands on Spencer Richey’s shoulders. The University of Washington alum won the starting position for Cincinnati’s last year in the USL over Evan Newton and now the newly minted MLS side has brought in a veteran keeper to challenge Richey once again. Richey has already had a brief cup of coffee in MLS but Vancouver didn’t seem to know what to do with him - or the rest of the goalkeeping core - as they opted for David Ousted (2017), Stefan Marinovic (2018), and Brian Rowe (2018) for the last two years. (None of the three goalkeepers are with Whitecaps anymore.) Richey has some doubters to prove wrong. Not only did Vancouver send him out for pennies on the dollar, but Cincinnati isn’t hedging their bets completely on Richey either. Things aren’t set in stone from day one, but Richey will want to nail down the starting position in March instead of playing catchup all year.

21. Matt Turner, 24 - New England Revolution
22. Alex Horwath, 31 - Real Salt Lake
23. Adam Grinwis, 26 - Orlando City SC
24. Zac MacMath, 27 - Vancouver Whitecaps
25. Cody Mizell, 27 - New Mexico United
26. Jon Kempin, 25 - Columbus Crew
27. Tyler Deric, 30 - Houston Dynamo
28. Sean Johnson, 29 - New York City FC
29. David Bingham, 29 - Los Angeles Galaxy
30. Ryan Meara, 28 - New York Red Bulls

Breakout or Bust Year: Adam Grinwis. The Joe Bendik-era in Orlando is officially over and the Lions picked up Grinwis for cheap (aka $0) at the end of the season. Grinwis doesn’t have a plethora of professional starts under his belt but he’s also running into a problem every goalkeeper encounters: he’s not exactly young anymore. It’s a hard sell to convince a team that a middle-aged goalkeeper without a ton of games deserves more starts. That’s typically reserved for younger goalkeepers or proven veterans. However, Orlando brought him in for a reason and it probably starts with his spring and fluidity when making a save. Orlando will surely look to mimic Cincinnati in bringing in a veteran to even out the position but all signs point to a massive opportunity for Grinwis, who turns 27 in April. If Grinwis can start for at least a chunk of the season, he’ll have a much easier time convincing his coach in 2020 that he’s a serious contender for the starting spot. If he sits the bench as he did for most of 2016, he may find himself pegged as a perennial backup.

31. Abraham Romero, 20 - Pachuca
32. Bobby Shuttleworth, 31 - Minnesota United FC
33. Brian Rowe, 30 - Free Agent
34. William Yarbrough, 29 - Leon
35. Josh Cohen, 26 - Sacramento Republic
36. Brendan Moore, 26 - Rochdale
37. Clint Irwin, 29 - Colorado Rapids
38. Trevor Spangenberg, 27 - Free Agent
39. Matt Lampson, 29 - Los Angeles Galaxy
40. Brandon Miller, 29 - Charlotte Independence

Breakout or Bust Year: Josh Cohen. There are a number of worthy candidates in this gap. Shuttleworth and Rowe are focusing on prolonging their respective careers for as long as possible, Yarbrough and Moore haven’t had a consistent season in a number of years, but Josh Cohen takes the cake here. Largely unnoticed, it’s not necessarily a poor move for him to return to Sacramento, but without a clear path to MLS, he’ll have a hard time moving out of the league. Cohen started every match in 2018 in his first year with the club - and cementing himself as one of the top USL goalkeepers for my money - but unless a team wants to take a flyer on him as Orlando did with their two current goalkeepers (Grinwis, Ranjitsingh), there really isn’t much hope for him to make the next level. Cohen checks a lot of the boxes when MLS teams are looking for a trustworthy goalkeeper, but MLS teams don’t have much of a history of bringing in a USL goalkeeper from a non-affiliated team. Cohen has the ability for the next level, but it’ll be hard to make the jump, to say the least.

41. Andrew Dykstra, 33 - Free Agent
42. Eric Klenofsky, 24 - Hapoel Marmorek
43. Chris Seitz, 31 - Houston Dynamo
44. Brad Stuver, 27 - New York City FC
45. John McCarthy, 26 - Free Agent
46. Richard Sanchez, 24 - Chicago Fire
47. Andrew Tarbell, 25 - San Jose Earthquakes
48. Brian Sylvestre, 26 - Free Agent
49. Diego Restrepo, 30 - Free Agent
50. Alec Kann, 28 - Atlanta United

Breakout or Bust Year: Andrew Tarbell. There are some implications based on how well Klenofsky, Sanchez, and McCarthy do in 2019 but Andrew Tarbell’s future in the league is running dangerously close to Zac MacMath’s path. MacMath was a heralded young goalkeeper but after immediately being thrown in the deep end and sinking, he would end up playing second fiddle for four years (and possibly a fifth, depending on how Vancouver wants to maneuver). Tarbell was abysmal in 2018 but we know he has the talent to be better, so we’re left scratching our heads as to what his ceiling actually is. Sitting behind Marcinkowski might actually be good for him to reset, but he also needs game time to keep progressing, especially at this age. Tarbell needs to make his most recent run of outings positive. If he sits for 2019, coaches are just going to look at his last line of work, which will be a sour 2018. If he ends up in an even worse situation for 2019, it’s only going to cement coaches’ uneasiness to bring him in. It’s a tightrope Tarbell needs to walk in getting games but he also doesn’t have a lot of leeway in terms of “sink or swim”.

51. Matt Bersano, 26 - San Jose Earthquakes
52. Charlie Lyon, 26 - Free Agent
53. Akira Fitzgerald, 31 - Free Agent
54. Matt Pyzdrowski, 32 - Varbergs BoIS
55. Mitch Hildebrandt, 30 - Free Agent
56. Andre Rawls, 29 - New York City FC
57. Matt Pickens, 36 - Nashville SC
58. Eric Dick, 24 - Sporting Kansas City
59. Zac Lubin, 29 - Phoenix Rising
60. Earl Edwards, 27 - DC United

Breakout or Bust Year: Eric Dick. Last year the MLS SuperDraft saw a record number of goalkeepers fly off the shelf, with Butler’s Eric Dick leading the way. Dick possesses the frame most MLS teams are looking for and with Tim Melia conceivably retiring around the same time Dick would be coming into his peak years, it seemed like a natural fit. However 2018 was an up and down year for the former Bulldog, where most of Dick’s limitations where centered on mobility and catching up to the pace of the game. It seems MLS sides are becoming quicker to move on from projects that aren’t working out and with how quick players trade value can plummet, Dick might be on the trading block if SKC doesn’t think he can make the jump to the next level. If Dick can sort out some of the finer points of his footwork, he’ll remind coaches why he was worth the early pick last college draft. If not, SKC may look to get a return for Dick through other avenues.

61. Scott Angevine, 29 - Mikkelin Palloilijat
62. Kyle Zobeck, 28 - FC Dallas
63. Wade Hamilton, 24 - Los Angeles Galaxy II
64. Rafael Diaz, 27 - Sacramento Republic
65. Will Dieterich, 31 - Stjarnan
66. Carl Woszczynski, 30 - Free Agent
67. Logan Ketterer, 25 - Free Agent
68. Tomas Gomez, 25 - St. Louis FC
69. Quentin Westberg, 32 - AJ Auxerre
70. Connor Sparrow, 24 - Nashville SC

Breakout or Bust Year: Wade Hamilton. If Hamilton has a poor year in 2019, it won’t tank his career, but it’ll likely remove the possibility of him succeeding in LA. After a lackluster year, David Bingham left the door open for any worthy challengers. It’s a tall task for the twenty-four-year-old, but similar to Eric Dick’s situation, at some point your potential is just your current ability. With Hamilton nearing his peak and not getting a ton of starts with either MLS or USL side, Hamilton’s time could be dwindling out west unless he’s able to give Galaxy fans reason to believe that Kevin Hartman won’t be the last young, successful goalkeeper in LA.

71. Cody Cropper, 25 - New England Revolution
72. Joe Kuzminsky, 25 - Charleston Battery
73. Matt Van Oekel, 32 - Birmingham Legion
74. Travis Worra, 25 - DC United
75. Tim Murray, 31 - FC Honka
76. Austin Guerrero, 29 - Free Agent
77. Bryan Meredith, 29 - Seattle Sounders
78. Kris Devaux, 27 - Bryne FK
79. Jeff Gal, 25 - BK Forward
80. CJ Cochran, 27 - Fresno FC

Breakout or Bust Year: Jeff Gal. Gal has quietly stowed away in the lower levels of Sweden for the past couple years and while playing overseas is always an admirable accomplishment, Sweden’s third division isn’t anyone’s desired final destination. If Gal can’t find a proper suitor to move up to, he may need to look for another country to conquer. Gal possesses the increasingly popular thin, agile frame a number of modern teams are looking for in the starting goalkeeper. He would most likely be successful in USL were he to choose that route, but wherever he ends up, he’ll surely won’t be content without finding out the limit to his abilities.

81. Jesse Gonzalez, 23 - FC Dallas
82. Sean Lewis, 26 - St. Louis FC
83. Jake Fenlason, 25 - Tulsa Roughnecks
84. Kendall McIntosh, 25 - Portland Timbers
85. Alex Mangels, 25 - Portland Timbers II
86. Michael Nelson, 23 - Houston Dynamo
87. Stefan Cleveland, 24 - Chicago Fire
88. Andrew Putna, 24 - Real Salt Lake
89. Kyle Morton, 24 - Pittsburgh Riverhounds
90. Dan Lynd, 24 - Free Agent

Breakout or Bust Year: Jesse Gonzalez. It’s been the same story for a couple years now: a good save followed by a disheartening goal. It wouldn’t be completely off base to say FC Dallas’ season came to an end because Gonzalez couldn’t figure out a fairly typical through ball situation. The once highly sought-after dual citizen who ended up making the bench for the 2017 Gold Cup is now struggling to be the popular choice in Frisco. Pareja backed him in 2018 but with a new coach brought in, the tune may change. At only twenty-three, Gonzalez enters his seventh year with the organization and if he can’t convince the staff he’s still not the clear number one choice, Gonzalez may end up in a similar position as Sean Johnson found himself: out of town.


91. Jeff Caldwell, 22 - New York City FC
92. Eric Lopez, 19 - Los Angeles Galaxy II
93. Mike Kirk, 24 - Free Agent
94. Bobby Edwards, 23 - Mount St. Mary's
95. Drew Shepherd, 24 - Toronto FC II
96. Tim Dobrowolski, 25 - Free Agent
97. Todd Morton, 23 - Delaware
98. Matt Cardone, 25 - San Antonio FC
99. Jake McGuire, 24 - Free Agent
100. JT Marcinkowski, 21 - San Jose Earthquakes

Breakout or Bust Year: Drew Shepherd. One of the footnotes of last year’s draft, Shepherd landed with Toronto only to get injured in the first game of the year. It’s coming up on eight months since the injury and Toronto has already been linked with drafting Dayne St. Clair as another goalkeeper within the organization. For a goalkeeper who only lost a dozen times in college, it’s clear he’s no stranger to overcoming the odds but he only has 16 professional minutes to his name thus far. If Shepherd wants to avoid earning only 16 minutes in two years, he’ll need to show coaches that he’s been worth the wait one way or another.

Ten Possible Goalkeepers for the 2019 U20 World Cup

cover photo belongs to US Soccer

The 2019 U20 World Cup kicks off in Poland next spring but the US's journey through qualification starts in two months, with the first game on November 1st. And thanks to a more expansive approach to the goalkeeping position, USYNTs have seen a variety of talented goalkeepers come through camps over the past few years. With qualification just around the corner, let's survey the ten likeliest goalkeepers we could see in the fold for the U20s.

 

1. Justin Garces (UCLA) - The U17 World Cup veteran leads the pack. Garces has been the number one choice for the US for the last two years and there are no signs of anything changing. After training with Atlanta United this summer, Garces is currently sitting behind sophomore goalkeeper Cole Martinez at UCLA. Playing second fiddle isn’t ideal for a starter going into World Cup qualifying but Garces isn’t one to let his skills get rusty just because he’s not a number one. For a goalkeeper who will likely not even finish his four years at UCLA, Garces will undoubtedly be ready to play this November.

 

2. Brady Scott (FC Köln) - It’s been a while since an American goalkeeper has done well in Germany. Despite the lack of success, Brady Scott and Jonathan Klinsmann are holding their own in an intensely competitive setting. Over the last month and a half, Scott has earned four starts for FC Köln’s reserve side, allowing four goals in four games. It's hard to describe Scott’s “style” as it feels fairly undefined in a lot of ways (perhaps the result of Scott developing in two different goalkeeping environments). He isn’t particularly flashy, but he’s not slow. He’s not aggressive, but he’s not passive. He did well getting low on a few saves in his most recent game against SC Verl, but it’s also a part of his job to make those plays. At the end of the day, if he can be a consistent, stable force in net for the U20s, it'd be hard to ask for more from him.

photo from    Bundesliga.com

photo from Bundesliga.com

3. Eric Lopez (Los Angeles Galaxy II) - Lopez’s stock has probably dropped a tad since this time last year. Lopez’s last two wins for LAGII came in September 2018 and August 2017. Admittedly, LAGII is a development side and not a team that strings together large win streaks. In spite of this, more should be expected from Lopez thus far. It isn’t easy when you’re in goal for one of the leakiest defenses but Lopez too frequently is caught overthinking a situation. If he can limit hesitations, sort out his feet in tight situations, and find a good run of form, he could not only contend for a roster spot but also the starting one as well.

 

4. Trey Muse (Indiana University) - After allowing only seven goals in 25 games last year - posting an unheard of 90.3% save percentage in his freshman year - Muse returns in goal after trailing in the Netherlands this summer. In the early stages of his sophomore year, Muse currently rides a three-game shutout streak as Indiana is the favorite in the Big Ten and on track to contend for another national title. If Muse can continue his success, #Q49 might quickly turn into #Q410.

 

5. CJ dos Santos (Benfica) - Dos Santos was one of the three goalkeepers for the last U17 World Cup roster but there’s a decent chance being overseas has removed him from the limelight of receiving a call-up for qualifying games. While Scott is earning first-team starts, dos Santos sits sandwiched between a number of Portuguese national team goalkeepers in Benfica’s youth ranks. So where dos Santos may not be earning as many headlines, he could very well take a similar route as Brad Friedel did, gradually grinding his way towards the top.

 

6. Brandon Austin (Tottenham) - The lanky goalkeeper relies heavily on his positioning and reactions, rarely daring to roam upfield. Time will tell how he completely develops but so far it’s been working, just recently having a positive showing in a 2-1 loss to Arsenal’s U23s. Perhaps the biggest question marks that come along with Austin’s game is with his dual citizenship. Austin was called into an English U19 camp back in April and the young goalkeeper’s eligibility to play for America is rumored to be in question.

 

7. Alex Budnik (Dartmouth) - Budnik has been a mainstay in USYNTs for the past few years, including making the 2017 U17 World Cup roster. Budnik hasn’t started for Dartmouth this season, but Dartmouth has conceded five goals in two games with two different goalkeepers. If the defensive woes continue, the freshman could easily see himself starting the Big Green and prove why he should be included on the U20 roster.

 

8. Quantrell Jones (UMBC) - Jones is one of, if not the, largest goalkeeper on the list. At 6’3” and 230 pounds, the DC United academy product is more of the traditional cut when it comes to classic USYNT goalkeepers. He's strong, with a solid frame, and quick reactions. While Jones has been in and out of camps with various USYNT, Jones is outside looking in with the U20s going forward. If Jones can crack the starting spot at UMBC, perhaps he’ll grab Ramos’ head, but until then we probably won’t hear from him again until he’s an upperclassman.

 

9. Johan Penaranda (Pittsburgh) - 2018 has been an eventful year for Penaranda. In February, he de-committed from the Naval Academy, announcing he’d be attending the University of Pittsburgh this fall. In the summer he won the U19 DA playoffs with NYCFC and followed up the trophy-finish with earning the starting spot for the Panthers. He hasn’t been exceptionally successful this early in but there’s still some time to wow Ramos into reminding him why he deserves another call-up.

photo belongs to NYCFC

photo belongs to NYCFC

10. Gabe Rosario (Huddersfield) - Admittedly Rosario’s tenure overseas hasn’t been stellar, notching just one point in five games and allowing 14 goals in the span for Reading’s U18 squad. But after watching what Rosario brings to the table, he holds his own when playing for one of the worst defenses in the league. He's quick and fights for the save, even if the scoreline is lopsided against his team. Rosario has since moved to Huddersfield where it looks like he’ll mostly play backup this season but the understated goalkeeper has an opportunity in front of him few goalkeepers his age even get a chance at.