Top Goalkeepers in Women's Soccer (2019)

The Women’s World Cup has finally come to a close but for those clamoring for more, the Olympic tournament is right around the corner. Until then most of the top goalkeepers will return to their clubs in England, France, Germany, and the US. This year’s list expands to include the top 60 in the world, as well as another 30 up-and-coming goalkeepers. Special thanks to Mouhamad Rachini for assisting with the rankings. Cover photo from FIFA.

1. Almuth Schult, GER (Wolfsburg) - 28
2. Tinja-Riikka Korpela, FIN (Valerenga, Norway) - 33
3. Sari van Veenendaal, NET (Arsenal, England) - 29
4. Alyssa Naeher, USA (Chicago Red Stars) - 31
5. Karen Bardsley, ENG (Manchester City) - 34
6. Stephanie Ohrstrom, SWE (Fiorentina, Italy) - 32
7. Lisa Schmitz, GER (Turbine Potsdam) - 27
8. Christiane Endler, CHI (PSG, France) - 27
9. Carly Telford, ENG (Chelsea) - 31
10. Katarzyna Kiedrzynek, POL (PSG, France) - 28

One to watch: PSG’s goalkeeper situation. Despite Endler’s World Cup heroics, it was Kiedrzynek who started 15 of 22 matches for PSG last season. It makes sense to see one of the goalkeepers slide to another club where they’ll be the proper starter but it’s tough to say which one. Kiedrzynek has the seniority but Endler’s stock has taken a massive bump in the last month. Kiedrzynek enters her seventh season with PSG, but it feels like a coin flip as to who will receive the majority of playing time. (For more on Endler’s background and recent surge, head over to Between the Sticks’ cover story on the Chilean goalkeeper.)

11. Aubrey Bledsoe, USA (Washington Spirit, USA) - 27
12. Lisa Weiss, GER (Lyon, France) - 31
13. Ashlyn Harris, USA (Orlando Pride, USA) - 33
14. Erin McLeod, CAN (Vaxjo, Sweden) - 36
15. Sandra Paños, SPA (Barcelona, Spain) - 26
16. Stephanie Labbé, CAN (North Carolina Courage, USA) - 32
17. Lydia Williams, AUS (Seattle Reign, USA) - 31
18. Adrianna Franch, USA (Portland Thorns) - 28
19. Laura O'Sullivan, WAL (Cardiff City, England) - 27
20. Mary Earps, ENG (Wolfsburg, Germany) - 26

One to watch: Aubrey Bledsoe. Heading into the World Cup, there were many questioning Alyssa Naeher’s ability in goal for the US. Now after Naeher’s outstanding semifinal performance against Spain, Bledsoe’s job of unseating the incumbent became even more difficult. Bledsoe has been working overtime the last two years, earning 61 starts between the NWSL and Australia’s W-League in the last 24 months. Bledsoe surely knows what’s within reach, but her toughest task of becoming the number one for the US is just beginning.

21. Sarah Bouhaddi, FRA (Lyon) - 32
22. Britt Eckerstrom, USA (Portland Thorns) - 26
23. Katie Fraine, USA (Vaxjo, Sweden) - 31
24. Michelle Betos, USA (Seattle Reign) - 31
25. Kateryna Samson, UKR (Ryazan, Russia) - 30
26. Gaelle Thalmann, SWI (Reggiana, Italy) - 33
27. Sabrina D'Angelo, CAN (Vittsjo, Sweden) - 26
28. Lee Alexander, SCO (Glasgow City) - 27
29. Laura Giuliani, ITA (Juventus) - 26
30. Oxana Zheleznyak, KAZ (BIIK Kazygurt) - 32

One to watch: Sabrina D'Angelo. After running into a crowded goalkeeping situation with the North Carolina Courage, D’Angelo moved east to Sweden’s Vittsjö. While the club is struggling to stay out of the relegation zone (currently sitting just one point above the line), D’Angelo is getting the playing time she was looking for. Canada’s goalkeeping position will soon start the process of passing the torch to the new guard, but D'Angelo’s resume might need to bolster up a bit before fans feel comfortable with her in net.

31. Erin Nayler, NZ (Bordeaux, France) - 27
32. Haley Kopmeyer, USA (Orlando Pride) - 29
33. Laetitia Philippe, FRA (Rodez) - 28
34. Didi Haracic, BOS (Washington Spirit, USA) - 27
35. Meline Gerard, FRA (Free Agent) - 29
36. Karima Benameur, FRA (Paris FC) - 30
37. Katrine Abel, DEN (Brondby) - 29
38. Erina Yamane, JPN (Real Betis, Spain) - 28
39. Pauline Magnin, FRA (Arsenal, England) - 27
40. Anke Preuss, GER (Liverpool, England) - 26

One to watch: Meline Gerard. After being named a backup to American goalkeeper Casey Murphy, the longtime French national team back up walked away from Montpellier. An injury in the fall gave her another hurdle to returning the field, putting the once-promising goalkeeper a full fourteen months from her last professional match. Gerard announced in May she was working on receiving a coaching license but a Facebook post last month seems to imply she still has something left to prove on the field. Gerard might or might not have gas left in the tank, but the answer will surely come sooner than later.

41. Laura Benkarth, GER (Bayern Munich) - 26
42. Romane Munich, FRA (Soyaux) - 24
43. Patricia Morais, POR (Sporting CP) - 27
44. Barbara Lorsheijd, NET (ADO Den Haag) - 28
45. Nora Gjøen, NOR (Sandviken) - 27
46. Bryane Heaberlin, USA (Frankfurt, Germany) - 25
47. Jennifer Falk, SWE (Goteborg) - 26
48. Rute Costa, POR (Braga) - 25
49. Loes Geurts, NET (Goteborg, Sweden) - 33
50. Hedvig Lindahl, SWE (Chelsea, England) - 36

One to watch: Laura Benkarth. An ACL/MCL tear cut most of 2018 short for Benkarth but the recovery went so well she worked herself in a World Cup roster spot. Bayern Munich has a slew of strong, young goalkeepers going into next season with Austrian international Manuela Zinsberger (23), former Dutch U20 starter Jacintha Weimar (21), and Finnish U20 starter Katriina Talaslahti (18). It’s a hand-picked goalkeeping core that will be tough for Benkarth to emerge from. If she can nail down the starting spot for Bayern Munich, expect to see more from Benkarth on even bigger stages.

51. Emily Dolan, USA (Real Betis, Spain) - 24
52. Bárbara, BRA (Kindermann) - 30
53. Mackenzie Arnold, AUS (Brisbane Roar) - 25
54. Meike Kamper, GER (Duisburg) - 25
55. Nicole Barnhart, USA (Utah Royals) - 37
56. Lindsey Harris, USA (Klepp, Norway) - 25
57. Jane Campbell, USA (Houston Dash) - 24
58. Deborah Garcia, FRA (Rodez) - 24
59. Vanina Correa, ARG (Rosario Central) - 30
60. Emily Armstrong, USA (Sundsvall, Sweden) - 25

One to watch: Mackenzie Arnold. After a lackluster World Cup performance from Australian starter Lydia Williams, Arnold could theoretically work her way into the starting spot for the Olympic tournament in 12 months. Arnold hasn’t been playing regularly since February, at the conclusion of the W-League, and will probably need some more game time under her belt to truly make a push for Australia’s number one spot. But she’s certainly in a position to impress the higher-ups if the next year goes well for her.

Top 30 Under 24

1. Ellie Roebuck, ENG (Manchester City) - 19
2. Carina Schluter, GER (SC Sand) - 22
3. Elena, SPA (Fundacion Albacete) - 22
4. Elisa Launay, FRA (Lille) - 23
5. Anneke Borbe, GER (Werder Bremen) - 18
6. Zecira Musovic, SWE (Rosengard) - 23
7. Peng Shimeng, CHI (Jiangsu Suning) - 21
8. Stephanie Bukovec, CRO (ZNK Split) - 23
9. Cindy Perrault, FRA (Grenoble Foot) - 23
10. Sara Serrat, SPA (Huelva) - 23

One to watch: Ellie Roebuck. Second place WSL finisher Manchester City relied heavily on the teenage goalkeeper. Roebuck, who started 15 of the club’s 20 matches, has earned two caps with the English national team over the last year. Roebuck is so highly regarded that she not only signed a two-year extension with Manchester City but served as a surplus traveling member for England’s World Cup team this summer. When compared to her peers, Roebuck is in a league of her own.

11. Ayaka Yamashita, JPN (Nippon TV Beleza) - 23
12. Romane Bruneau, FRA (Girondins de Bordeaux) - 22
13. Cecilie Fiskerstrand, NOR (Lillestrom) - 23
14. Maria Quinones, SPA (Real Sociedad) - 22
15. Kailen Sheridan, CAN (Sky Blue FC, USA) - 23
16. Aurora Mikalsen, NOR (Kolbotn) - 23
17. Lena Pauels, GER (Werder Bremen) - 21
18. Casey Murphy, USA (Seattle Reign) - 23
19. Manuela Zinsberger, AUS (Bayern Munich, Germany) - 23
20. Sophie Baggaley, ENG (Bristol City) - 22

One to watch: Casey Murphy. Murphy is the next logical choice in the post-Alyssa Naeher era for many US fans. At 23, she’s certainly accomplished more than her American counterparts, leaving college early to play in France for two years with Montpellier. She’s recently returned stateside, filling in for Lydia Williams’ absence with the World Cup team. Murphy will likely be fast-tracked going forward by some NWSL side, whether it is Seattle or not, but the competition for a starting spot in the NWSL is unlike any other position in the league.

21. Chika Hirao, JPN (Albirex Niigata) - 22
22. Emily Boyd, USA (Chicago Red Stars) - 22
23. Lisa Klostermann, GER (SGS Essen) - 20
24. Jalen Tompkins, USA (University of Colorado) - 22
25. Ana, SPA (Rayo Vallecano) - 21
26. Mikayla Krzeczowski, USA (University of South Carolina) - 21
27. Matilda Haglund, SWE (Linkoping) - 22
28. Ella Dederick, USA (Washington State University) - 22
29. Alessia Piazza, ITA (Tavagnacco) - 21
30. Lize Kop, NET (Ajax) - 21

One to watch: Ella Dederick. Back in February, Washington State was happy to announce that Dederick was granted an additional year of eligibility after a knee injury cut last fall short. Dederick was on pace to be a top goalkeeper in the 2019 NWSL draft before the unfortunate setback. Now with a new lease on her playing career, Dederick will be a top draft pick for 2020 if everything goes as planned. Dederick’s fitness and playing level will be unveiled in August and if she can stay healthy through the grueling fall, look to see her name on everyone’s draft board in January.

Past Rankings:
2018
2017
2016

US Soccer Still Searching For Goalkeeper Identity

cover photo from FIFA.com

After another successful World Cup run for the US U20s, the US fell short in a tightly contested 2-1 loss to Ecuador. Despite this being the third consecutive U20 tournament where the US reached the quarterfinals, the goalkeeping situation left a familiar, unsatisfactory taste for most viewers. Since the turn of the century, American goalkeepers have largely struggled at the youth tournament, if not the professional scene as well. Jonathan Klinsmann and Cody Cropper performed well under par in 2017 and 2013, respectively. Zac MacMath (2011), Sean Johnson (2009), Chris Seitz (2007), Quentin Westberg (2005), Steve Cronin (2003), and DJ Countess (2001) would receive many accolades in their youth but all would go on to have polarizing professional careers. With more goalkeepers sinking than swimming during and after the U20 tournament - 2015 standout Zack Steffen being the rare exception - the problem can be linked to a lack of a consistent identity within the position.

Throughout the history of American goalkeepers, it’s hard to pin down just exactly what makes up an American style. At best, they can be best described as converted basketball players. As many former American goalkeepers pointed out in a previous interview, many looked forward to summer camps as their main chance to hear new information on the position. In spite of no consistent, high-end training environments, the typically multi-sport American goalkeeper would have exemplary hands and possessed a physically dominating athleticism. But the similarities ended there. Looking across the modern era, it’s easy to see that American goalkeepers come in all sorts of molds. Some are short, some are aggressive, some are good with their feet, and some are none of the above. From Steve Clark to Ashlyn Harris to Nick Rimando to Katelyn Rowland, there are a wide variety of styles within the professional goalkeeping scene.

The lack of goalkeeping identity has plagued not only the men’s U20 teams but all aspects of goalkeeping in the country. National team coaches have long debated as to whose style would best complement the team. On the men’s side, Tim Howard would play deep into the 2018 World Cup cycle, long past his prime, simply because there wasn’t a clear successor. Brad Guzan is almost the exact opposite goalkeeper as Howard and wasn’t a natural fit. After the Hope Solo era with the USWNT, many were slow to draw any comparison from Alyssa Naeher to Solo, with Ashlynn Harris being another wildly different goalkeeper. In the college game, coaches’ desired qualities for their starting goalkeeper vary from school-to-school, largely due to most having little or no background with goalkeeping. Youth and club goalkeeper coaches are, for the most part, developing players on an island, without any input or gauge from a recognized authority on what is correct.

Confusion over goalkeeper development has rippled far off the field as well. USSF licensing has barely broached the issues and while the USC has done their best to offer an open, discussion-oriented setting, ultimately it leaves applicants to simply taking note of different approaches instead of getting coaches on the same page. The media cannot keep pace with understanding what a good American goalkeeper looks like as it’s been a moving target. For one cycle, the US will field a “calm, composed goalkeeper who is a strong shot-stopper”. The next cycle they’ll turn to a “brave, aggressive goalkeeper who’s not afraid to challenge a cross”. Vague anecdotes run rampant in post-game write-ups and in-game commentary, praising a goalkeeper for whatever the observer notices. With everyone pointing different directions, there are no wrong answers but there are no right answers either.

For most of soccer’s history in the US, the country was plagued with not having enough goalkeeper coaches to foster a positive training environment. Now the pendulum has swung the opposite direction as coaching education is so widely available that we have an abundance of differing philosophies when it comes to goalkeeper development. This excess in opinions and loss of leadership from the USSF has led the landscape to develop every type of goalkeeper, instead of repeating known successes. When looking at other nations with top goalkeeping cores, there is a general mold their goalkeepers are in line with but the US’s lack of a team identity has bled over to the goalkeeping position. The absence of such a goalkeeper mold begs the question, “Why aren’t we modeling goalkeepers after Howard? Or Friedel? Scurry? Solo?”

Photo from  soccerwire.com

Photo from soccerwire.com

Rewinding back to the most recent U20 tournament, US head coach Tab Ramos struggled to sort out the number one position, which is odd given the team’s success in the tournament. Despite starting Brady Scott in the win over the expected winner (France), Ramos removed Scott for Real Salt Lake’s David Ochoa after many were underwhelmed with Scott’s performances in the tournament. The switch ultimately proved ineffective as Ochoa appeared awkward and uncomfortable when he was called upon during the game. Ochoa panicked multiple times when receiving a back-pass, displayed some dangerous hesitancy when coming off his line, and was severely out of position on the opening goal. Most of the problems Ochoa faced were not technical or mechanical issues, but tactical decisions, highlighting the point that he was unsure of how an American goalkeeper should play with this specific team. After two unsuccessful attempts to find a confident goalkeeper to lead the US, only Benfica’s CJ dos Santos was left minute-less by the end of the tournament, likely due to dos Santos’ aggressive, sweeper keeper tendencies being foreign to the coach who played alongside Tony Meola for most of his career. Out of three very different goalkeepers, none of them seemed to fit within the system.

For nearly every U20 goalkeeper, their development path will be littered with a dozen different goalkeeper coaches before they turn 25, each one emphasizing what they best see fit. While every goalkeeper coach would agree the main priority for an American goalkeeper is to keep the ball out of the net, the troubling dissonance is found in what constitutes as doing just that. Should American goalkeepers be aggressive on crosses? Are sweeper keepers a better fit? Do coaches want to see more catches or parries? What is the US’s stance on implementing foot saves as a major factor for low saves? How should goalkeepers approach 1v1s? After not having a Director of Goalkeeping within USSF since 2005, should the federation look to fill the vacancy with one of the many qualified coaches throughout the country? Finding answers to these questions is not the problem, but the lack of the USSF’s direction with goalkeeper development is.

Everybody Soccer Around the Net

Occasionally I am lucky enough to be published on other sites. In an effort to keep track of any extracurricular articles, here’s a mostly comprehensive list of articles that would have otherwise been published here on Everybody Soccer.

Red Bulls News Network

American Soccer Analysis

Top Drawer Soccer

Once a Metro

YouTube Channel

Paste Magazine (RIP)

Soccer Over There (RIP)

USWNT Goalkeeping Eras

cover photo from Andy Mead/Icon Sportswire

The most exclusive position in all of US Soccer: the USWNT’s goalkeeper. Only 23 women have played goalkeeper for the national team in 34 years. Branching off the men’s goalkeeping era post I did a few years ago, the same methodology applies here. The graph portrays a goalkeeper’s percentage of their own games played vs. the available caps in the previous two years. For example, at the end of December 2012, Hope Solo had 31 appearances in the last two years (dating back to the start of 2011). There were only 7 non-Solo goalkeeper caps (Barnhart 5, Loyden 2) in the timespan, giving Solo a 82% share. This is also why a goalkeeper’s last cap will occur two years before their space on the graph completely fades out. Below is the complete list of every goalkeeper that’s played for the national team as well as the corresponding graphs.

All-Time USWNT Goalkeeper Caps

1. Hope Solo (2000-2016) - 202
2. Briana Scurry (1994-2008) - 175
3. Nicole Barnhart (2005-13) - 53
4. Siri Mullinix (1999-04) - 45
5. Alyssa Naeher (2014-present) - 38
6. Saskia Webber (1992-2000) - 28
7. Mary Harvey (1989-96) - 27
8. Tracy Ducar (1996-99) - 24
9. Amy Allman (1987-91) - 24
10. Ashlyn Harris (2013-present) - 19

11. Lakeysia Beene (2000-03) - 18
12. Kim Maslin-Kammerdeiner (1988-91) - 17
13. Kristin Luckenbill (2004) - 14
14. Jill Loyden (2010-14) - 10
15. Kim Wyant (1985-93) - 9
16. Jen Branam (2000, 06) - 6
17. Janine Szpara (1986-87) - 6
18. Jen Mead (1993-1997) - 6
19. Jaime Pagliarulo (1997, 01) - 3
20. Jane Campbell (2017-present) - 3

21. Emily Oleksiuk (2001) - 2
22. Gretchen Gegg (1986, 90) - 2
23. Ruth Harker (1985) - 2

1985 - 1991

The first half decade games were erratic and scarce. 1987, 1989, and 1991 the national team played 11, 1, and 28 games, respectively. UCF alum Kim Wyant started in each of the six first games while Amy Allman and Mary Harvey collected the bulk of the appearances for the time. Allman played in sixteen of the ninteen games from 1987-1988 but would eventually play backup to Harvey, who led the team to a first place finish at the very first World Cup.

1992-2004

As Harvey’s time with the national team waned, some new faces would eventually supplant the World Champion. Harvey was 30 by the time the 1995 World Cup rolled around and while Saskia Webber had established herself as a promising young goalkeeper, it was Briana Scurry who sprang onto the scene at the start of 1994. Until the end of the decade, Scurry received at least half of the caps every year, with UNC product Tracy Ducar (née Noonan) making the biggest dent at the end of 1997. Siri Mullinix started the 2000 Olympic silver medal run as then coach April Heinrichs opted for Mullinix over Scurry due to her spending "too much time appearing on talk shows and too little time at the gym”. A young hotshot goalkeeper named Hope Solo earned her first cap in the spring of 2000.

2005-2018

Solo managed to earn a bulk of the caps for over a decade, dipping off slightly due to a solider surgery at the end of 2010. Scurry would start for the USWNT during the 2011 and 2015 World Cups but the starting spot in the summer of 2007 was split between Scurry and Solo. Barnhart notched 53 appearances over her career as the 37 year old is heading into camp yet again with the Utah Royals. Alyssa Naeher was been the number one goalkeeper since 2017 but as the next five years could look something similar to 2002 or 1993 as the team may start testing out other options at the position.