By Ridge Mahoney
Not many foreign keepers have been signed in the history of MLS, yet the top two spots this year were taken by a Dane and an Austrian.
Michael Gspurning, tasked with taking over for U.S. legend Kasey Keller, recovered from a hip injury to take second spot behind Sporting Kansas City keeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Backed by "The White Puma," SKC allowed a league-best 27 goals, and Nielsen came within one of Tony Meola's league record of 16 shutouts.
Americans filled out the rest of the top 10, with the steady and occasionally spectacular veteran Nick Rimando leading the pack. He may lack the physical attributes of younger (and bigger) goalies like Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson yet is still exceptional in his anticipation and positioning.
The rankings are based on statistics, of course, but also consistency of play along with factors such as leadership, command of the penalty area, and distribution.
SA's Top 10 MLS 2012 Goalkeepers
1. Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)
2. Michael Gspurning (Seattle)
3. Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
4. Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus)
5. Tally Hall (Houston)
6. Jon Busch (San Jose)
7. Sean Johnson (Chicago)
8. Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas)
9. Bill Hamid (D.C. United)
10. Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)
Gspurning posted a remarkable 0.73 goals-allowed average in 21 games after recovering from a hip injury; he's solid in all departments, next year we'll see if he can produce more big saves at critical moments. Rimando seldom errs and is occasionally brilliant and has a lot of experience, which is why he stays in the national team pool.
Gruenebaum faced more shots (165) than any of the statistical leaders and a GAA of 1.26 for the porous Crew isn't his fault. Tally Hall is regularly overlooked when praise is handed out for the Dynamo yet he wound up with 12 shutouts, tied with Rimando for second-best.
Jon Busch was occasionally stranded without support by the high-scoring Quakes and came up with a lot of tough saves to enable them to stage those incredible comebacks. Johnson was one of five keepers to post more than 100 saves. Statistically, Kevin Hartman had a mediocre season (1.40 GAA, five shutouts) yet he didn't get much help until two-thirds of the way through the season. Hamid finished third in GAA (1.03) but gave up a few very bad goals. Dan Kennedy, once again, impressed with his quickness, courage and resilience during a disastrous campaign.
As I Seattle Sounder supporter I have to say NICK RIMANDO was incredible this year and far better than the rest. He is deserving of the top keeper and an all star spot! Fair play Nick