I’m back for year three! First, a big thank you to my friends at Goal.com for allowing me another go at ranking MLS goalkeepers each month, ultimately leading to the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year presentation at the end of the season.
Last year, Donovan Ricketts earned his second honor as best man in net, followed by Nick Rimando. These vets have picked up where they left off, and both appear in my watch list below. As in previous seasons, I try and take a look at each goalkeeper’s full body of work rather than focusing solely on statistics. This month there are more goalkeepers than normal on our list, as it’s too early to separate some, but look for this list to be trimmed down as the cream of the crop rises to the top. Do you feel otherwise? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo
Despite a loss against Vancouver, Hall kicked off his campaign with two shutouts and two wins. Facing fewer quality shots on target than others in the league, it’s difficult to gauge the exact form Hall is in, but I suspect another solid run for the two-time MLS All-Star. April will offer competition against Dallas, New England, Philadelphia, New York and Portland. If the Dynamo are going to be successful in this period, Hall will have to be at his best for head coach Dominic Kinnear’s squad.
2. Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
Rimando has been one of the busiest men in net across the league, and he’s already secured two out of the three Saves of the Week, including a penalty attempt from Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy) which he denied in RSL's opener. Salt Lake did let a two-goal lead slip away in the second half with San Jose’s Victor Bernardez knotting things up in the 95th minute of play. Rimando couldn’t reach the jump ball, keeping the play live for Bernardez to score, but it was largely RSL’s defense that didn’t finish. He had several saves during the game against Toronto; the most notable was a dive that required agility and quick reflexes. As Rimando looks to solidify a seat on the plane to Brazi for Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA team, I expect nothing less than laser focus from him this year.
3. Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers
Ricketts, like Rimando, Frei and Troy Perkins, has earned multiple nominations for Save of the Week. The first was Ricketts' most impressive work in March, keeping Portland at nil against Philly following a diving stop to deny Cristian Maidana’s left-footed blast through a crowded box. Both nominations came from matches that ended square, which are precious points Portland will need if it's going to repeat as best in the West. After a slow start from the Timbers, they will lean on Ricketts to steady the ship. The question is, how long can he be at the top of his game?
T4. Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
After undergoing season-ending surgery in 2012 and appearing in only one match for Toronto last year, Frei is off to a fresh start as Seattle’s No. 1. Notable stops include an Alvaro Rey (Toronto FC) strike across the face of goal, a point-blank reaction block from the foot of Montreal’s Eric Miller and his denial of Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew). All were nominees for Save of the Week. Frei has all the tools and although there have been some shaky moments early on, we can likely chalk those up to his adjustment to a new team. Is this the guy that could help save Sigi Schmid and the Sounders?
T4. Chris Seitz, FC Dallas
Seitz has been fun to watch in net as Raul Fernandez continues to mend his offseason injuries. In his first three starts, Seitz faced a league-high 21 shots and managed to help secure two wins and a tie. Dallas fans fully expect Fernandez to return to his All-Star form, but the competition in net will be motivating for all parties in the mix. Helping contribute to a victory over the Portland Timbers, Seitz and the rest of FC Dallas (3-0-1, 10 points) will stay at the top of the Western Conference table heading into April. If Seitz and FC Dallas continue at this pace, will Oscar Pareja make a change? Either way, always great to see goalkeepers take chances.
T4. Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA
Kennedy is someone that far too often gets overlooked, but when it came time to face New York it was his time to shine. Never mind Péguy Luyindula heading a corner kick into the net that resulted in a tie and prevented the end to a winless streak for Chivas USA, Kennedy was full of outstanding wins. Under constant pressure, he remained focused - making a kick save on a breakaway by Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 73rd minute, stopping a header by Thierry Henry and, what was undoubtedly the most impressive, nudging a dipping Dax McCarty shot over the bar in the final 10 minutes. This last play earned him a nomination for Save of the Week and made him one to keep an eye on. A decent start by Wilmer Cabrera’s Chivas and a new ownership group on the horizon, could this be the year Kennedy plays for a winner and gets the credit he deserves?
T4. David Ousted, Vancouver Whitecaps
Ousted joined the league last summer and has had his ups and downs since his arrival. But this year things have been looking up for the Austrian goalkeeper who remains undefeated after four games and holds the second highest save percentage. Ousted also has the second lowest goals against after Donovan Ricketts. His most notable moment came in the fifth minute of the Whitecaps game against New England when he pushed a sharp header from Andy Dorman over the bar, depriving the Revolution of their first goal of the season. This is one goalkeeper I will continue to have my eye on.