June saw MLS take a break for World Cup action, but two young goalkeepers did enough to share the top spot.No doubt soccer has been the sporting topic for even the most casual of sports fans the past several weeks. For those who will continue watching the beautiful game following the World Cup final, I am tracking Major League Soccer goalkeeper performances all the way to the announcement of the Goalkeeper of the Year award.
As league action continues to unfold and players return from Brazil, there have been some shakeups in my power rankings. Let us know where you see the goalkeepers stacking up in the comments below and don’t be afraid to make a case for your hometown goalkeeper.
T1. Bill Hamid, D.C. United (T1)
It was another strong month for D.C. United and its goalkeeper, who sit atop the Eastern Conference table. With a goals against average of 1.15 and one of the best save percentages in the league (73 percent), Hamid is growing to be the goalkeeper many thought he would become. One of his most notable moments and biggest saves of the season came in the sixth minute of added time in a recent match against Toronto. Dan Lovitz challenged Hamid with a volley, but Hamid secured the win for United with a reflex stop when it mattered most. With all the personnel changes this year in DC, Hamid needed to be a steadying force in the back for United, and that’s just what he’s been.
T1. Eric Kronberg, Sporting Kansas City (N/A)
Where to start with Kronberg? With Sporting Kansas City missing two of its most important players to the U.S. national team, Kronberg has made his presence known. Having faced almost 60 shots, Kronberg has maintained a league-leading 0.88 goals allowed average and also is MLS’ clean sheets leader with seven. The road shoutouts include a 2-0 win in Houston (June 6) and a 1-0 victory in Portland (June 27). If that wasn’t enough, he was also named MLS Player of the Month for June. Kronberg had some big shoes to fill in net at KC, and he’s been up to the task. Now it'll be Andy Gruenebaum's job to step up, with Kronberg sidelined for two months with a broken finger.
3. Steve Clark, Columbus Crew (4)
Clark is a guy who has bounced around on the list this year, but he has come up with some big stops to help Columbus go unbeaten during the same span. Looking past the recent four draws, stats tell the story for Clark. Among keepers with 14 games played, he has the highest save percentage at 72 percent and the third-lowest goals against average at 1.12. Columbus takes the field against New York, which currently has the tiebreaker over Columbus for the final playoff position in the East. Clark continues to be a bright spot for Greg Berhalter's side in 2014.
4. Jaime Penedo, Los Angeles Galaxy (N/A)
Debuting on the list, Penedo remains undefeated since my last rankings posted. While he has faced fewer shots than the rest of the keepers on my list, Penedo has maintained a strong 1.00 goals against average by denying 74 percent of shots faced. In Week 16, he earned a Save of the Week nomination for his leap to parry Earthquakes striker Steven Lenhart’s header over the crossbar to preserve the win for the Galaxy. Penedo seems to be following the trend that has been a way of life in Los Angeles the past few years: Get better as the season goes on.
5. Jon Busch, San Jose Earthquakes (T1)
The Earthquakes have slipped to the bottom of the table with three consecutive defeats. Some may disagree, but I think Busch deserves to remain in the top five for a few reasons. He has an impressive goals against average – 1.08 – which is one of the best out there at this time. Busch also earned a Save of the Week nomination in Week 13, when he came up big with a reactive dive that prevented FC Dallas' Fabian Castillo from capitalizing on a penalty kick that would have tied the game going into halftime. Looking ahead, the Earthquakes have a tough road going up against D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.
These five made the list this month, but with Nick Rimando back in the fold, Ricketts, Robles, Shuttleworth, Johnson and others will all look to help their teams as we move closer to the 2014 MLS Cup.