MLS Positional Rankings: Rimando tops the list of best keepers

By Ridge Mahoney

The goalkeeping position is rather stable in MLS; a few teams have proven veterans who are entrenched, and several others have gone with younger players through good times and bad. Not many teams change keepers often, though some shaky times in the Colorado goal this year had fans scratching their heads. Montreal, too, never seemed to get that sure-handed, reliable stalwart in the nets.

The rankings are based on statistics as well as the traditional goalkeeping elements of reflexes, quickness, positioning, distribution, leadership and command of the penalty area. Only keepers who played in one-half of their team’s games were considered.

SA's Top 10 MLS Goalkeepers (2014)
(3) Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
2. (NR) Bill Hamid (D.C. United)
3. (NR) Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy)
4. (NR) David Ousted (Vancouver)
5. (-) Steve Clark (Columbus)
6. (6) Jon Busch (San Jose)
7. (NR) Bobby Shuttleworth (New England)
8. (NR) Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas)
9. (NR) Stefan Frei (Seattle)
10. (10) Sean Johnson (Chicago)
In parentheses 2013 ranking at position.
not ranked in 2013; -=not in MLS in 2013.

At 35, Nick Rimando is the classic case of a keeper maintaining high standards longer than field players. His reflexes, command of the box, and positioning are still sharp. His legendary PK prowess continues – only one successful kick out of five attempts – and his goals-allowed average led the league. A 5-0 playoff blowout by the Galaxy didn’t change the fact that only two teams conceded fewer goals this season than RSL’s 39.
Key stats: 24 games, 1.04 goals allowed average, 7 shutouts, 73 save percentage.

 The athletic prowess of Bill Hamid has lit up MLS games for several seasons, but in 2014 he cut down on errors and assumed a more confident and commanding presence in the box. He got a lot of work this season -- he was one of only five keepers to hit triple figures in saves -- as United finished as the best and stingiest (37 goals allowed, tied for fewest) team in the Eastern Conference.
Key stats: 30 games, 1.13 GAA, 10 shutouts, 110 saves, 75 percent.

Jaime Penedo plays behind a stingy defense yet the Galaxy’s attacking instincts sometimes leave the back line exposed; on a few occasions this year -- such as the 0-0 playoff tie at RSL -- he’s bailed out his teammates. In his second season he’s stronger in the box on set plays and aside from a pair of rough late-season outings against Seattle turned in a consistently good season.
Key stats: 29 games, 1.10 GAA, 8 shutouts, 70 percent.

Every minute of every game will show up on the resume of David Ousted for the 2014 season, his first full campaign in MLS. A greater team commitment to defending and the August arrival of Costa Rican centerback Kendall Waston relieved his burden somewhat, but since early in the season he’s been impressive. His total of 41 crosses caught was third-best. The ‘Caps led the league in shutouts and were fourth in goals conceded (40).
Key stats: 34 games, 1.18, GAA, 13 shutouts, 69 percent.

Steve Clark came to MLS last winter after four seasons in Norway with Honefoss and was an important piece in head coach Gregg Berhalter’s rebuilding process. He and the Crew didn’t fare so well in the playoffs but a solid-third place finish owed much to the work of Clark and other defensive additions such as Michael Parkhurst and Waylon Francis. Clark has got quick hands and feet, plays the angles well, and is strong in the air.
Key stats:  34 games, 1.24 GAA, 8 shutouts, 111 saves, 73 percent.

Another rough season for the Quakes meant some long nights for Jon Busch, whose 137 saves were 26 more than runners-up Clark and Luis Robles. He’s been Man of the Match far more often than he should be the past few seasons, but the bombardments and inevitable defeats -- 16 in 2014, second-most in the league -- haven’t squelched his spirit.
Key stats:  34 games, 1.47 GAA, 137 saves, 6 shutouts, 72 percent.

As the Revs rebounded from an eight-game losing streak, keeper Bobby Shuttleworth drew the notoriety he’d been worthy of all long. He’d won a preseason duel with Brad Knighton for the starting job and once New England had regained its stride and midfielder Jermaine Jones had been installed, it won nine of the last 11 games while conceding less than one goal per game.
Key stats: 32 games, 1.25 GAA, 8 shutouts, 67 percent.

Raul Fernandez endured a fluctuating situation in the FC Dallas goal that might have cost the team a few points in the standings, yet the team did well enough whether it was him or Chris Seitz in goal to reach the playoffs and battle Seattle to a 1-1 tie in the conference semis. In his two seasons he’s proven himself good enough to handle MLS but whether he can ascend into the top tier of league keepers isn’t certain.
Key stats: 21 games, 1.24 GAA, 4 shutouts, 69 percent.

Stefan Frei is sometimes victimized by the Sounders’ tendency to get forward. He’s got all the tools and perhaps needed a full season to approach the form he’d displayed at Toronto FC, for which he seldom played the past two years because of injury. One underappreciated aspect of his game is quick and accurate distribution.
Key stats: 34 games, 1.47 GAA, 9 shutouts, 66 percent.

In Chicago, Sean Johnson and his teammates set a league record by tying 18 games in the first season under head coach Frank Yallop, who said of his play: “He’s kept us in a lot of games. Once we get more of a settled lineup, we’ll win more games and he’ll get more recognition.” The Fire juggled its lineup extensively enough that Jeff Larentowicz played a fair portion of the season at centerback, and at age 26, Johnson will appreciate some stability in the personnel he works most closely with.
Key stats: 33 games, 1.48 GAA, 6 shutouts, 64 percent.

SA's Best Goalkeepers (1996-2014)
2014 Nick Rimando
Donovan Ricketts
Jimmy Nielsen
Kasey Keller
Kevin Hartman
Matt Reis
Jon Busch
Brad Guzan
Matt Reis
Pat Onstad
Joe Cannon
Pat Onstad
Kevin Hartman
Tim Howard
Tony Meola
Kevin Hartman
Zach Thornton
Walter Zenga
Brad Friedel

2 comments about "MLS Positional Rankings: Rimando tops the list of best keepers".
  1. Rick Estupinan, November 13, 2014 at 3:57 p.m.

    Brad Friedel was one of best American goalkeepers of all time.Just remember those spectacular saves in South Korea(2002).He was much better than Keller,who is placed # 4 In your list.How wrong and ungrateful.Keller was so bad against Italy in the following World Cup,and the main reason the US exited so soon.

  2. Zoe Willet, November 14, 2014 at 11:21 p.m.

    Good grief! Ricketts didn't even make the top ten, whatever happened?

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