There were some astonishing stats posted by keepers in 2013, starting with Jimmy Nielsen’s microscopic 0.88 goals-allowed average. Timbers’ goalie Donovan Ricketts, the Goalkeeper of the Year, also got in below the goal-per-game mark at 0.97.
No goalie is on pace to match Nielsen’s mark, yet several keepers could limbo under the goal-per-game bar by posting shutouts in their remaining games. Goals-against average and shutouts are often as much a function of team defense as well as individual play, so other stats such as save percentage are considered, along with those vital elements of decision-making, distribution, command of the penalty area, foot skills and ability to snuff out potential opportunities by catching, punching, and smothering balls at critical moments.
Here are the top picks for the 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year Award, ranked by preference, with a few other notable performances included as well. League stats as of Oct. 15 are in parentheses (games played, goals-allowed average, shutouts, W-L-T record, save percentage):
1. NICK RIMANDO, REAL SALT LAKE (22 GP, 1.14 GAA, 5 SHO, 12-4-6, 72 percent). Absences for national-team callups will affect his final numbers as per games played, shutouts, saves, etc., yet he’s as sharp and reliable as ever. His legendary PK prowess continues -- only one successful kick out of five attempts -- and the rest of his game has yet to slip.
2. BILL HAMID, D. C. UNITED (28 GP, 1.14 GAA, 10 SHO, 13-9-5, 76 percent). Hamid took over the starting job three years ago and this season has matured significantly. He’s among the league leaders in total saves as well as save percentage, the errors are fewer, and there’s an aura of command about his game that was occasionally missing in the past.
3. JAIME PENEDO, LOS ANGLES (27 GP, 1.07 GAA, 8 SHO, 15-6-6, 72 percent). Yes, he plays behind a stingy defense yet in just his second MLS season he’s improved greatly in dealing with battles for aerial balls and other aspects of a rugged league. The Galaxy’s attacking zeal sometimes leaves the defense exposed and on many occasions he’s fended off the opposition until his teammates regain their edge.
4. STEVE CLARK, COLUMBUS (32 GP, 1.25 GAA, 8 SHO, 12-10-10, 72 percent). The Michigan native came to MLS last winter after four seasons in Norway with Honefoss and while playing every minute has displayed excellent physical traits and shrewd instincts. He’s one of several MLS goalies who could be summoned to the national team during the very busy run-up to the 2018 World Cup.
5. DAVID OUSTED, VANCOUVER (32 GP, 1.25 GAA, 11 SHO, 11-8-13, 67 percent). It’s been a season of contrasts for the Whitecap: he leads the league with 11 shutouts yet has good if not great numbers in GAA and save percentage. He arrived in June of last year and split time with Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon, and this season has gone all the way in every game.
Best of the rest ....
Jon Busch (32 GP, 1.53 GAA, 5 SHO, 6-15-11, 72 percent) has endured another season of bombardment in the San Jose goal and heading into the final weeks he’s the runaway leader in saves with 134. With a new stadium and a new head coach (Dominic Kinnear) headed his way, he might get more support.
Bobby Shuttleworth (30 GP, 1.30 GAA, 7SHO, 14-12-4, 66 percent) responded in his first full year as the Revs' undisputed No. 1 keeper with a strong and consistent season.
Eric Kronberg (18 GP, 1.00, 7 SHO, 7-6-5, 63 percent) missed nearly one-half of the season with a broken left hand and he boasts the lowest GAA among regular keepers despite five of his goals conceded coming from the penalty spot. But he’s apparently lost the SKC starting spot to Andy Gruenebaum.
Sean Johnson (32 GP, 1.50 GAA, 5-9-18, 6 SHO, 63 percent) labored along with his Fire teammates during an arduous season laden with ties and spotty performances. Extreme roster changes affected the resilience in front of him and with more stability in the team next year his numbers should improve.
Stefan Frei (32 GP, 1.50 GAA, 8 SHO, 1.50 GAA, 19-10-3, 67 percent) is sometimes victimized by the Sounders’ tendency to get forward and not always get back quickly. He’s got all the tools but very occasionally lets in one he should stop, and that must be rectified in the playoffs.