After one month of league play, Tony reconfigures his preseason rankingsMLS’s March to Soccer provided fans with excitement and parity, particularly among early Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year award candidates. We have some new players to watch, as well as usual suspects Rimando and Nielsen in the mix.
How do you see it? Join the debate in the comments below.
|1. Bill Hamid, D.C. United (Honorable Mention)
Despite United’s slow start in the league table, Bill Hamid has been the best goalkeeper in MLS thus far. Earning Man of the Match honors against New York Red Bulls, Hamid kept out a near own-goal in the closing minutes of the Rivalry Week match to keep the teams level at nil. He was also included in the Men of the Match discussion in games against Houston and Columbus, which were both losing efforts. Hamid’s working on an impressive 2013 highlight reel, and we’re only one month into MLS action. Stay tuned!
|2. Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake (2)
Nick Rimando is that guy you want protecting your net late in the match when the ball is fixed in your defensive third. Continuing to show that he belongs at the top, Rimando had stellar moments throughout the first month of MLS play. Some that come to mind are late saves against D.C. and Colorado, including a point-blank parry against Carlos Ruiz, who was attempting to put away the match. Rimando stops the big one when it’s most needed.
|3. Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City (1)
Last year’s shutout king is at it again. Three clean sheets in five matches played, Nielsen is bound to be in the discussion for the MLS All-Star team and end of year awards. It’s difficult to keep Nielsen at the top of the list, because most keepers have faced two or three times the amount of shots, but he’ll face some of the top gunners in the league this month in D.C., New York, L.A. and Portland. Nielsen’s best performance of the month came against Philadelphia, where he provided five of his seven overall saves this season.
|4. Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers (Not Ranked)
I had the chance to watch Donovan Ricketts in person during MLS Rivalry Week, and it’s great to see the veteran continue to display his fearless and acrobatic style in net. Of all the league’s goalkeepers, perhaps no one has stopped more close-range strikes than the Jamaican. In a close match against Montreal, Ricketts parried a well-hit Marco Di Vaio header from the six to keep things level early on, also adding back-to-back blocks late in the competition.
|5. Raul Fernandez, FC Dallas (Not Ranked)
FC Dallas is enjoying the view from atop the Western Conference standings, and Raul Fernandez has been a catalyst for the squad’s early success. Impressive saves against Colorado and New England resulted in clean sheets for the Peruvian international. My favorite stop from Fernandez came against the Revs, when he calmly guided a lofted header over the bar. It wasn’t Save of the Week material, but Hernandez displayed textbook footwork and positioning prior to elevating for the tip. He has shown vast improvement in his mechanics.
|Honorable Mention: Michael Gspurning, Seattle Sounders (3)
Not many MLS fans would have put Seattle in the cellar of the standings through the first month of play, but that’s where the Sounders stand. Winless in their first four games played, the Sounders have only scored twice, which is why I’ve given Michael Gspurning a pass for the lack of success. Every match in Seattle’s schedule has been decided by a goal or less, and absolutely would have been worse if it weren’t for Gspurning’s heroics. A prime example came just last week, as the Austrian provided Seattle with save after save, including a pair of one-on-one stops to deny RSL’s Joao Plata.