Carlo Cudicini's arrival likely means the end of Josh Saunder's tenure with the Galaxy after playing in three MLS Cups in five years.The goalkeeping position hasn't hindered the LA Galaxy – winners of two Supporters' Shields and two MLS Cups since 2010 – but it has hardly been a strength under Bruce Arena.
On the last day of 2012, Arena made a move that should solve any net-minding questions for the reigning MLS Cup champs in 2013: he signed Carlo Cudicini.
Gauging Cudicni's potential impact is tricky. The 39-year-old hasn't played consistently since 2007-08, when he featured in 19 games for Chelsea as Peter Cech struggled with injury. Ousted by Cech at Chelsea, Cudicini moved to Tottenham, where he's made just 37 appearances in the past four years. The addition of Hugo Loris and steady performances of Brad Friedel forced him down to third choice between the sticks at White Hart Lane, with Heurelho Gomes a close fourth.
When he did play, Cudicini was imposing. He won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups and the 2002 Chelsea player of the year award. An obvious natural ability – bolstered by an impressive wingspan – coupled with the Italian's apparent willingness to accept a backup role, led Daily Telegraph writer Roy Collins to dub Cudicini "the world's most unambitious footballer" in January 2008.
That's a tad harsh.
"Galaxy fans you have no idea how good a goalkeeper you are getting," Brad Friedel tweeted. "Top, top keeper and a great guy."
Cudicini, who will not be a Designated Player, represents a considerable upgrade on the Galaxy's current goalkeeping crop.
In 2010, Donovan Ricketts won the Goalkeeper of the Year gong and anchored Los Angeles to a Supporters' Shield win. By 2011, Josh Saunders had usurped the starting role, exploiting a run of games Ricketts missed through injury. Arena moved Ricketts on after that season, relying on Saunders, who at just under $78,000 per year represents a bargain for a starting MLS goalkeeper.
Though Saunders is a decent goalkeeper, he had bumpy patches throughout last season. The 31-year-old missed most of May to attend the league's substance abuse program (he claims he was struggling with stress). Then shaky form hit during the playoffs. In the MLS Cup final, Saunders flapped at several dangerous Houston Dynamo crosses in the first half and seemingly melted into the field for Calen Carr's opener.
That match, which the Galaxy rebounded to win, likely sealed Saunders' fate. He is out of contract, and Los Angeles picked up the rights to Will Hesmer as a safety net during the offseason. Hesmer led the Crew to the 2008 Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double, but missed all of last season after hip surgery.
Besides Hesmer, who made $181,000 last season, the Galaxy own the rights to youngsters Brian Rowe and Brian Perk.
Cudicini, even a few months removed from his 40th birthday, provides a better and more reliable option than anyone else on the Galaxy's roster. He will come at a considerably higher price than Saunders, but by ducking under the DP threshold leaves Arena some financial wiggle room as he redesigns the roster in the wake of David Beckham's departure.
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