In a season of low goalscoring (2.54 per game), numerous keepers finishing with good stats is inevitable but a few keepers played less than 20 games and thus were downgraded below a player like rookie Stefan Frei of Toronto. His occasional errors inflated his goals-allowed average (1.49) but dozens of good saves kept TFC in the playoff race probably longer than its overall play deserved.
Chivas USA goalie Zach Thornton led the league with a dozen bagels, and in goals-allowed average (0.87) to collect the Goalkeeper of the Year award, election to the Best XI, and also Comeback Player of the Year. A rigorous offseason conditioning program honed the 35-year-old into a reliable, and occasionally brilliant, goalie
Yet our top pick is Revs' keeper Matt Reis, who led the league with 114 saves, which his team desperately needed, since New England permitted opponents to take more shots (426) than any other team. In his 24 games, Reis conceded 23 goals to slide just under the goal per game average at 0.96, fourth-best in MLS. In the six games he didn't play, New England allowed 14 goals. Big difference.
Right behind Reis is Kasey Keller, the 39-year-old who again displayed his Dino Zoff-esque age-defying qualities. In his 18th season as a pro and first in MLS, Keller ranked second in goals-allowed (0.92), tied for second in shutouts with 10, and displayed all the experience and savvy and leadership and spirit crowd appeal Seattle management could have hoped for when it signed him.
Thornton comes in third, and next in line is major factor in the transformation of the Galaxy; Jamaican goalie Donovan Ricketts, who spiced up steady, consistent shot-stopping and command of his box with occasionally spectacular saves, such as the thumb-deflection of a point-blank Brian Ching header onto the crossbar in the Western Conference final the Galaxy won in overtime, 2-0. Double saves, catches in heavy traffic, quick releases, superb reflexes, and dependable positioning are all in his game.
Old reliable (hey, he's 41) Pat Onstad did the business again for Houston, which tied with Chivas USA in fewest goals allowed (29). Onstad played every one of the 2,700 regular-season minutes, posted 10 shutouts, won 13 games, and allowed 0.97 goals per game. Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear affectionately calls him "Big Pat," and the 6-foot-4 Canadian has been coming up big since he joined MLS in 2003 and on two previous occasions has been Goalkeeper of the Year.
Nick Rimando gave us a hint during the regular season what he might do in the playoffs by saving penalty kicks from Jeff Cunningham and Brad Davis. Onstad also snuffed Cunningham as well as Conor Casey of Colorado.
Here's our top 10 MLS keepers for 2009:
1. Matt Reis (New England)
2. Kasey Keller (Seattle)
3. Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)
4. Donovan Ricketts (Los Angeles)
5. Pat Onstad (Houston)
6. Jon Busch (Chicago)
7. Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
8. Will Hesmer (Columbus)
9. Stefan Frei (Toronto FC)
10. Kevin Hartman (Kansas City)