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

Goals Saved Above Replacement: 2018 MLS Goalkeeping Stats

cover photo belongs to Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

Recently American Soccer Analysis published an article, Going to WAR for Points Above Replacement. It’s a fantastic read and an idea that I’m sure will stem new ideas for how statistics are utilized in soccer. Unfortunately they’ve beat me to the punch a little as I’ve been working on a new goalkeeping stat for the past few years, trying to find something more intuitive than the dreadful save percentage or goals against average. There are a number of issues with traditional goalkeeping statistics, the most notable being that they are only a sliver of a goalkeeper’s impact on the game. Goals Saved Above Replacement (GSAR) quantifies all areas of a goalkeeper’s actions, from shot stopping to cross handling to pass accuracy.

Identifying a baseline or replacement-level for MLS goalkeepers is tricky with salaries and talent levels constantly swelling over the past twenty years. Matching a “0 GSAR” goalkeeper with the median salary of MLS goalkeepers in 2018 ($132,625.00) proved to be the easiest route. Using this standard, we’ll take a look at seven different categories to obtain an overall GSAR rating, as well as put a dollar amount on each MLS goalkeeper’s performance from 2018.

Goals Saved Above Replacement

Each MLS goalkeeper has had their season broken down into seven categories.

shots <10 - The first two columns are shots from inside and outside ten yards. The distance measured is from the shooter to the goalkeeper, not the shooter to the goal.

While traditional expected goal models focus on a shooter’s location on the field, GSAR focuses on different criteria: where the shot passes the goalkeeper and how long the goalkeeper had to react.

A shot’s difficulty is not deemed by where it enters the goalmouth but how far the ball was from the goalkeeper when it intersected the goalkeeper’s dive line. This angle is affected by a goalkeeper’s starting position as well as where the shooter is located on the field. If a shot is taken near the end line, the ball will pass the goalkeeper within a few feet even if it is hit the upper corner. Similarly, if a goalkeeper is closer to the shooter, they “cut down the angle” and cover more of the goalmouth, putting the ball’s path closer to their body.

shots >10 - While the first category is largely impacted by a goalkeeper’s reaction abilities, the second has more emphasis on a goalkeeper’s ability to move his feet and general angle play.

pks - Penalties aren’t a large part of the MLS season, but they do occur once every six or seven games. On average a penalty has a success rate of around 80%.

crossing - This category takes into account if a goalkeeper punched, claimed, or (for a negative value) let a cross drop in a position they should have challenged for. The position has recently seen a swing towards favoring passive goalkeeping when it comes to crosses, which explains the relatively low ratings.

error - Covering a number of different areas, only negative numbers will be found here. This can include gifting a poor rebound to the opposition, giving away a penalty, or a number of other actions that result in creating another chance on goal.

misc - The miscellaneous tallies cover any non-tradition goalkeeping action. Slotted balls back to the center of the box are the most common, as well as any actions that don’t fit a proper formula, which are entered in by hand. Unique shot deflections and 1v1 situations (amongst other actions) can be found here. Hand-adjusted values make up less than .1% of all goalkeeping actions.

passing - Passing stats consider how often and where a goalkeeper completes a pass versus where a turnovers occur. A turnover at the other side of the field is negligible, while a turnover in front of one’s own goal returns a larger negative value.

Minutes and average GSAR/90 minutes are tacked on at the end.

Projected Salaries Based Off of GSAR

Picture1.png

Placing a value on a goalkeeper’s season is challenging as one team’s willingness to spend high on goalkeeping doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the league will. To find a fair expected payment, the salaries and GSARs were listed in descending order to find a trend between the two. This brings up certain issues but overall it puts every goalkeeper on an even playing field when it comes to receiving payment for their services.

As some goalkeepers didn’t play the whole season - whether due to injury or a coach’s decision - finding a projected dollar amount would either have to extrapolate a goalkeeper’s stats for a full 38 game season or shrink down the corresponding payment. For example, Attinella only played two-thirds of the season but compiled a 4.74 GSAR. Should his projected GSAR-based salary be off what he could have done over 38 games or should it account for only the games he played? With a goalkeeper’s true impact being dependent on what they can bring to the field every game, I opted to extrapolate the dollar amount out to 38 games.

Categories are explained in more detail below. Goalkeepers are sorted by the difference ($$.diff) in their projected payment minus their actual. “$$.diff” is not what goalkeepers deserved to be paid, simply just the difference between actual and deserved.

m.GSAR/gm - Simply dividing a goalkeeper’s GSAR over the minutes they played, unless the goalkeeper played less than 900 minutes in the season. If this was the case, a goalkeeper was given either a positive or negative .03, depending on their GSAR. It’s not a great siphoning method, but +/- .03 keeps backup goalkeepers’ GSARs from getting out of hand with such a small sample size.

adj.GSAR - What a goalkeeper’s GSAR would have been had they played all 38 games (3060 minutes, excluding stoppage time).

gsar.$$ - How much a goalkeeper deserves to be paid, converted from a goalkeepers’ adj.GSAR. The conversation formula is based off the previous orange and white graph.

$$.diff - Goalkeepers are sorted by this column, which simply subtracts real.$$ from gsar.$$. Tyler Miller was underpaid by $333,503 while Andre Blake was overpaid by $410,805.

Have any questions? Head over to the contact page for any specific inquiries.

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.

Can the USWNT Learn Anything from the Canadian Hockey League?

cover photo belongs to ISI Photo

Back in the summer of 2013, the Canadian Hockey League made a surprise announcement when they put a ban on foreign goalies entering the league. The ban - specifically aimed at talented European goaltenders - limited teams from drafting any non-North American goalies in the three junior leagues (all under the CHL) in an attempt to give more playing time for Canadians to aide in their development. The move was a response to the country’s perceived goaltending crisis, where many viewed the netminders as a major weak point in Canadian hockey. Even as recently as summer 2017, the goalie development crisis was still a concern for some despite the league’s efforts to mend the issue. However the CHL rolled back the ban this summer, citing improvements to goalie development, although there is still some debate on the impact of the short-lived rule.

Turning to the USSF, it’s no secret goalkeeper development hasn’t been at its best in recent years. While the USMNT is struggling to fill out their second and third slots with proven talent, the USWNT is in a tight spot as well. Replacing Hope Solo has been more challenging than expected, collegiate production seems to have hit a bit of a lull, and looking back at the 2018 Women’s U20 World Cup, goalkeeping wasn’t exactly the strong point in their tournament run.

Looking at both Hockey Canada and USWNT, there are some similarities between the two organizations’ last line of defense in terms of development. When Hockey Canada introduced the ban, it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction after a few poor games. The ban was put in place after many realized the lack of representation of top Canadian goalies in both the professional leagues as well as the youth leagues. While stating the USWNT’s goalkeeper situation as a “crisis” is a bit excessive, the US has still yet to develop a goalkeeper at the level of Briana Scurry or Hope Solo nor is on track to do so. Both programs were once producing top-level goaltenders yet they’ve slowed their production in recent years.

To understand if Hockey Canada’s approach would be a good fit for the NWSL, it’s important to look at the problems plaguing the USWNT’s goalkeeper pool.

1. There is no one directing goalkeeper development within US Soccer - The last person to fill this spot was Peter Mellor back in 2005 before he moved to work solely with Real Salt Lake. Since then the standard for how a goalkeeper develops has been overseen by each coach on their own accord, from professional and youth clubs alike. At most, the federation has given vague guidelines on how goalkeepers must be developed through their licensing classes. Unfortunately most USSF coaching licenses spend little time on the position and typically are led by coaches who have never played goalkeeper. The USSF only recently started an A license goalkeeping course but featured zero NWSL goalkeeper coaches.

USYNT goalkeeper coaches work in a revolving door fashion, offering little consistency for who players will be training with from camp to camp. On the club’s side, a number of WPSL and UWS teams don’t have a goalkeeper coach while finding a collegiate problem with a goalkeeping coach who has been there for four years is tough to find. Additionally, NWSL coaches are limited to developing their second-string goalkeepers through practice, as it’s tough to find meaningful minutes for young backups.

The landscape for goalkeeping coaches in America is a mess. For every one positive goalkeeping environment in the US, there are another ten negative ones. Having a Director of Goalkeeping would ideally oversee the development for top-level goalkeepers, but also assist in making sure goalkeeper coaches across the country are on the right path when training their own goalkeepers.

A few months ago, Tab Ramos told SoccerAmerica how he’s aware of the need yet was currently in a hiring freeze, although since then the freeze seems to have been lifted. As of right now, the USSF has yet to name someone to oversee goalkeeper development on a full-time basis.

Rose Chandler holding the Golden Glove award from the 2016 CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship. Chandler did not return for her senior year at Penn State.  Photo from    gopsusports.com

Rose Chandler holding the Golden Glove award from the 2016 CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship. Chandler did not return for her senior year at Penn State. Photo from gopsusports.com

2. The dropout rate is too high - Just in the last few years, the women’s goalkeeping pool has lost a number of young prospects. Libby Stout, Caroline Stanley, Madalyn Schiffel, Brianna Smallidge, EJ Proctor, Alyssa Giannetti, Rose Chandler, and Evangeline Soucie have all retired for a variety of reasons. For some, retirement was unavoidable due to injuries but as a whole, there are far too many goalkeepers simply opting out for another career track outside of professional soccer.

Some may argue that goalkeepers who retire young aren’t in contention to truly compete for the USWNT’s starting spot and while it’s not fair to make a claim that early in a player’s career, it’s also missing the bigger issue. Top goalkeepers are only pushed by those who are under them. If there’s not enough talent to compete for a starting spot, things can easily become stagnant.

The dropout rate is a hard problem to combat, as money is a major driving force in persuading any career pursuit, but it’s one that is quietly draining the goalkeeping pool.

3. The path to professionalism is too muddied - Looking back to the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup, players entered the tournament from top clubs all around the world. French players came from PSG and Lyon. German players arrived from Turbine Potsdam and Bayern Munich. English players trained at Manchester City and Liverpool. Spanish players hailed from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. In contrast, the US is relying heavily on the collegiate system, a training environment that plays four months out of the year. It’s a tall task for the University of Virginia to match Lyon or Barcelona’s resources.


Assuming a player is able to navigate a grueling four years playing in a jam-packed schedule, the road only gets tougher. Roster spots are scarce for rookies in the NWSL and even more challenging for goalkeepers as most teams only carry two. Some may look at the WPSL and UWS as helpful stopgaps but the reality is most of those teams rely heavily on collegiate players outside the D-1 level. It’s barely a developing ground for top collegiate players but certainly not aspiring professionals.

Unless there are dramatic changes to the collegiate setup, the USSF will eventually have to entice players to skip college altogether if they want to continue to compete with the world. Despite all it has to offer, UNC won’t be able to provide the same level of commitment as PSG and Lyon continue to ramp up what they have to offer their youth players. Until then a player whose sights are set on joining the NWSL has a large task in front of them: they must finish their cumbersome college career as a top U23 player in the world - by only training with their team for a third of the year - and somehow land a golden ticket to join an NWSL side full-time. Anything less and the player is likely looking at another career path. As of right now, there’s not a better domestic track provided for young players.

It’s hard to be optimistic towards the situation when the USSF is rolling out A licensing courses without NWSL coaches or presenting initiatives like bio-banding, a program that groups players by their physical development to alleviate the problem of coaches not appropriately challenging early and late bloomers. The program is a wonderful example of the USSF seeing a problem but being unaware of what is causing the complication. If the problem is centered on coaches not doing their job well, then reshuffling the deck isn’t going to address the issue. (Adnan Ilyas has a great write-up on more issues with bio-banding.)

Similar to the CHL’s approach, if Canadian goalies aren’t good enough, giving them more chances to fail will only help so much. The CHL raised the idea of new coaching certification to help with goalie development but according to In Goal Magazine, “five years later the impact seems to depend on where you live, with some regions accrediting coaches regularly and coaches in other areas that still haven’t heard of it, let alone opportunities to take the course.” It seems the CHL’s plan was half-hearted, not to mention short-lived.

Development is not solved solely by high-level game appearances. It must be addressed in a top-down manner. From USWNT training sessions to the grassroots level, the USSF must be keen on having a system that yields positive results and not simply rely on removing tougher competition or hoping a coach can figure it out on their own. While putting a ban on foreign goalkeepers in the NWSL might be a positive dose for the American pool, it doesn’t address the position in a more thorough manner. The NWSL is a premier league trying to elevate the level of its play, as well as the top domestic players. There are only so many young goalkeepers who can hop right into the league. Unless the NWSL is interested in lowering the level of play, a handful of extra games for young goalkeepers only will help so much.

There are a number of directions the USSF can take when approaching goalkeeper development but copying the CHL will likely result in a similar reversal of the ban in a short time. Looking across the globe, countries are continuing to put more resources into raising the level of play in their respective domestic leagues and youth national team development. In contrast, the US has yet to see any substantial improvements in the goalkeeping department over the past few years and the output is starting to show. In order for the USWNT to stay on top, simply outsourcing goalkeeper development to whoever is interested won’t be enough anymore.