MLS Goalkeepers on the Offseason

Following last year’s article, Everybody Soccer returns to inform fans on how their favorite MLS goalkeepers kept themselves busy this winter. From a wide variety of answers, it’s clear to see that there’s no one right way for how an athlete should best prepare for the nine month season. Special thanks go out to independent contractors Hunter Beck, Jared Dryden, JT Hill, Jacob Klotz, Tanner Sharp, and Barrett Smith for their diligent reporting.

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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

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.