Meola's MLS GK Power Rankings: Nielsen leads list of contenders

Jimmy Nielsen holds onto the top spot as he continues a strong campaign with Sporting Kansas City.
We’re down to the final two months of the MLS Regular Season. Every goal allowed from this point will be scrutinized, as playoff spots are on the line. As I do each month, I’ve ranked the league’s top goalkeepers who are in contention for the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Award, presented in November.

1. Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City (1)

While Sporting KC owns the top spot in the Eastern Conference, it has scored 20 goals less than its Western Conference counterpart, San Jose. Team defense and Nielsen’s trademark saves are the reasons my former club is on top of the tables, allowing only 23 goals in 26 matches. In August, Sporting KC went unbeaten despite scoring just one goal in three of those matches. When it comes down to it, a Peter Vermes coached team will always be organized and stingy, and Nielsen will make that one big save when you need it most.
2. Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake (2)

Nick Rimando has stalled in my rankings, as RSL suffered a brutal August (0-3-1). The losses can’t fully be attributed to Rimando’s efforts in goal, as Salt Lake has allowed its opponents to practice scoring drills inside the 18. The keeper came up big twice in recent matches, providing a diving point-blank save during extra-time to temporarily keep RSL scoreless with the Whitecaps. He also came up with a clutch block against FC Dallas, stretching across goal to parry a low-roller from Fabian Castillo.
3. Andy Gruenebaum, Columbus Crew (T-5)

He’s been at the tail-end of my list all season long, but Andy Gruenebaum deserves a serious look for this award. I don’t believe there is a keeper in the league that made as many key saves for his team as Andy this month. There was a kick save against D.C. while the teams were level, a stoppage-time save against the Galaxy to secure a draw, and a diving effort against the Revs, which helped the Crew rally for a 4-3 win. Gruenebaum has been tested 117 times this season – fifth most in the league – but still maintains a clean net.

4. Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo (T-5)

Tally Hall has 11 wins and 10 shutouts to his name, placing him fourth on my list this month. Houston has maintained its position in the playoff race due in large part to Hall’s clean sheets, but stats aside, he has provided textbook goalkeeping as of late. Some of his August highlights include denying Thierry Henry on a breakaway and a great catch save off Luis Silva that many goalkeepers would be forced to punch away.

5. Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire (NA)

Welcome to the watch list, Sean Johnson. What a month he and the Fire have had, earning a 3-1-2 record and now just a point away from third in the East. Even in the one loss against United, Johnson was credited with a top-three performance for his many saves. This season, Johnson has been one of the busiest keepers in the league with 102 shots faced, yet he maintains the highest save percentage (76%) among keepers with four or more games played.