As the new cycle begins, we’re all expecting young talent to make some national team appearances. Bill Hamid almost made the last World Cup roster this last go-around and both Sean Johnson and Cody Cropper have received call-ups within the last year. It brings up the question, how much does potential play into receiving a call-up? Where is the floor for players’ current ability? On top of that, why is Rimando still in the picture? He’s 35 now and will be 39 by the next World Cup. Surely, he is on the downside of his career.
Players always mention the honor in playing for the US National Team. But the honor in a call-up must be based off of current merit, not promise. You don’t reward someone for what they’re going to do. The focus right now should be on the Gold Cup in nine months, not the 2018 World Cup. Rimando is still in the picture because he’s one of three best goalkeeping options for the US and will help the team next summer. With that in mind, struggling goalkeepers do not need to be called into camp. Sean Johnson is still experiencing growing pains with Chicago and Cody Cropper had a rough outing against Brazil on Monday (his first touch led to a goal). If Klinsmann wants to get a closer look at a goalie, he can visit a practice or attend a game but it’s a waste of a call-up to call-in a struggling goalkeeper when there are veterans who are at the peak of their games. The senior national team is not a developing program. Clubs develop players, not national teams. Reward those that are ready now and encourage the ones who will be there one day.
That said, here are three viable options Klinsmann needs to take a look at that can assist the US in their next run in the 2015 Gold Cup, if not beyond.
1. Steve Clark – Clark has a familiar late bloomer story for American soccer fans. Undrafted coming out of Oakland University, he bounced around in the US’s lower leagues before going abroad. Finally landing withHønefoss, he was a big reason why they earned promotion into the Tippeligaen, Norway’s premier league. After a disappointing finish in 2013 (Hønefoss finished with 34 goals scored in 30 games) Clark came back to play in MLS. He displayed a superb spring and quickness but also a DIY-technique he had learned and was the definition of “raw”. Columbus goalkeeper coach, and two time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Pat Onstad has honed Clark to a great final product. He’s playing angles well, his hands are in smart positions, and he still maintained his lateral reach.
Recently, Clark was runner-up in MLS’s save of the week… to himself. He’s the best goalkeeper in MLS at the moment and getting better. Look for Columbus to win the five seed in the East and for Clark to give their playoff opponent fits at the end of October.
2. Luis Robles – The only goalkeeper on this list that has a cap although Robles hasn’t been with the US team since his appearance in the summer of 2009. Out of the all the keepers on the list, Robles is the most consistent. He plays smart and knows exactly of what he’s capable of. He’s been crucial in helping New York clinch the playoffs despite being on one of the worst defenses in the league, sitting third in allowing shots against.
The main downside to Robles is that he doesn’t necessarily stand out in any one category. He’s not as explosive Hamid or Clark, he’s not that iconic outside the New York crowd, and he’s hasn’t been in the spotlight like heralded prodigies that go overseas, despite actually going overseas. For whatever reason, Robles has remained largely unnoticed in the depth pool. However he has the presence that would translate well to the international game.
3. Joe Bendik – Bendik and Clark share several similarities. He wasn’t drafted coming out of college and ended up in Norway. Bendik signed with Sogndal and also gained promotion, although Bendik wasn’t as involved with his club as Clark was. He returned to MLS and eventually found his way to Toronto. At the end of this season he’ll have one and a half seasons as a starter under his belt. (He spent time as a backup to loanee Julio Cesar.)
Bendik’s season has been about what one would expect from a twenty-five year old. Mostly solid play with the occasion conceded goal centered around lack of experience, not a lack of skill. An odd situation where the ball takes a weird bounce, a forgotten backside runner, a delayed thought to recognize the through ball… Bendik has all the tools to be an elite starter within MLS but he still has some growing to do. As for now, he’s still good enough to start and the kind of player you want to build your team around.
Since we’re on the subject, the USYNTs are notorious for staying with their two goalkeepers and not bringing in new competition. (Although to be fare Charlie Horton was called into the last U23 game, a name that was far from the radar for most fans.) This next Olympic cycle will likely feature Cody Cropper as the number one and Santiago Castaño as the number two. Here are three more goalkeepers that deserve a look or, at the very least, allow you to say you knew about them first.
1. Jon Kempin – Kempin made a splash in Kansas City this year with his penalty heroics. Look for Kansas City to make some room for Kempin next year as he’s currently sitting number three.
2. Alex Bono – The starter for Syracuse University, who are 11-1 and sitting number four in the nation. Bono and Syracuse take on North Carolina State on ESPN 3, October 25th.
3. Paul Blanchette – At 6’3″, 200 pounds, Blanchette has more the frame of a college tight end than your typical goalkeeper. The starter for Loyola Marymount University is a little harder to catch on TV but his highlight reel doesn’t disappoint.
For more information about the depth pool on American goalkeepers and some analysis on Bill Hamid’s strengths and weaknesses, feel free to skim the latest edition of Top 100 American Goalkeepers.
After having been denied a move to New York in February, former Karlsruher goalkeeper Luis Robles has signed with MLS, and the MLS roster roulette wheel indicated he’d be subject to the allocation process:
Fans might recall hearing about the 28-year-old Robles back in February when he told MLSsoccer.com that he was planning on training with the Red Bulls with a view to a sealing a permanent move after it became clear he was no longer in the plans of German side Karlsruher SC.
However, although he is not a US national team pool player — he last played for the US back in 2009 — the league’s rules make clear that Robles is required to go through the allocation process and cannot be claimed by just any MLS team on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The New England Revolution held the top allocation spot, followed by Toronto FC and Chivas USA. Robles, in fact, wound up with the club he originally wanted, New York.
The Red Bulls currently have rookie Ryan Meara, journeyman Bill Gaudette, and our old friend Jeremy Vuolo at goalkeeper. I’d imagine Gaudette (recently acquired via a trade with Los Angeles) or Vuolo will be moved out or released.
The Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders rivalry will be the first in the history of soccer* to feature a clash of Eddie Johnsons, as well-traveled American striker and World Cup veteran Eddie Johnson has been acquired by the Sounders via a trade with Montreal, who had claimed him in the allocation process. Johnson was acquired in exchange for forward Mike Fucito and winger (and one-time OT favorite) Lamar Neagle.
Per Steve Goff, Johnson will earn somewhere between $100-$150k for the Sounders with a club option for 2013. Johnson made $875,000 with the Kansas City Sporting-Wizards in 2007. To put that into perspective for the 99 percenters, that’s like going from the U.S. median household income of $50,233 to a salary between $5,741 and $8,611. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
We needn’t rehash the rough ride that Johnson has gone in since 2008 (Fulham-Cardiff City-Aris-Preston North End-MLS-not MLS-Puebla). He has shown to be a useful player when he is comfortable and confident (15 goals in 24 matches in 2007, 5 goals in 16 matches on loan to Aris Thessaloniki in 2010) and a maddening, frustrating player the rest of the time.
Elsewhere, the previously-discussed potential move of Luis Robles has fallen through. After having previously said that Robles was eligible to be acquired via a discovery signing, MLS decided instead that Robles would be subject to the allocation order. It leaves the Red Bulls scrambling with just two unproven keepers in camp three weeks before the MLS season kicks off, and it will undoubtedly launch a new wave of theories that MLS just makes up its player rules as it goes along.
*- I have no clue if this is actually true, but you can’t deny that it’s a fun trivia fact that you can’t wait to use at cocktail parties.
Yanks Abroad’s Matthew Wagner has an interview with Caleb Stanko, currently playing with Freiburg’s U-23s and who has been in camp with Coach Tab Ramos and the U.S. U-20’s.
Andrew Wooten’s stellar play with Kaiserslatuern II has caught the eye of senior team manager Marco Kurz. The potential Olympian has gained attention from clubs in multiple divisions as his contract is up this summer.
Meanwhile, a former Kaiserslatuern player is considering a move stateside. Luis Robles, now with Karlsruher, will head to New York for talks with the Red Bulls, who have filed a discovery claim for him. If the move goes through, he’ll compete with Jeremy Vuolo and second-round draft pick Ryan Meara.
It’s been a busy summer for soccer, with the United States men’s national team going through a memorable and controversial if unsuccessful Gold Cup and the women’s team currently engaged in a World Cup run that evoked memories of Algeria on Sunday, but some of the European leagues are closing in on kickoff. This weekend, in fact, the 2nd Bundesliga will kick off with five Americans seeking promotion to the top flight.
Edson Buddle joined FC Ingolstadt 04 in January after having been a finalist for Most Valuable Player in his last season with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. Die Schanzer stood at 3-12-3, good (poor?) enough for 17th place of the 18 2nd Bundesliga clubs, at the time that Buddle joined. He scored a goal against fellow US international David Yelldell in his debut against Duisburg, helping them Ingolstadt earn a critical 1-1 draw against the then-4th place Zebras.
While you can’t credit the World Cup veteran Buddle too much— he finished with three goals in 14 matches— Ingolstadt played significantly better after his arrival, finishing on a relative tear down the stretch with a 6-3-7 finish. The 25 points earned in the final half of the season was double their first-half effort, and while challenging for promotion is not realistic, if they can replicate anything close to that form for a full season they should at least be able to avoid needing another great escape.
Moritz Hartmann will continue to be the first-choice forward in Benno Möhlmann’s single-striker formation, but based on preseason results Buddle looks to still be ahead of Caiuby for first forward off the bench. Ingolstadt will open with a trip to recently-relegated FC St. Pauli.
Matt Taylor earned himself a personal promotion even as his club last year, Rot Weiss Ahlen was relegated from the 3rd Liga. (In fact, right now it’s not certain that Rot Weiss Ahlen will play at all this season due to financial insolvency. They’re currently licensed for the NRW-Liga (5th division)— they were actually originally outside the 3rd Liga drop zone.) It wasn’t Taylor’s fault that Rot Weiss Ahlen struggled so much. He scored 17 goals, providing 37% of their total goals as they had a respectable offense (46 goals ranked them tied for 9th). Taylor himself finished tied for 3rd in goals scored (and made the OT XI!). He was rewarded for his efforts with a return to the 2nd Bundesliga, where he played in the 2008-09 (scoring 7 goals in 22 matches for TuS Koblenz) and 2009-10 (zero goals in 9 matches for FSV Frankfurt) seasons.
Now, Taylor and SC Paderborn 07 will look to turn around a generally disappointing 2010-11 season. After having earned promotion during a one-year stay in the 3. Liga in 2008-09, Paderborn finished a surprising 5th place in the 2nd Bundesliga in 2009-10. Undoubtedly harboring hopes of challenging for promotion in 2010-11, Paderborn instead finished 12th, two points ahead of Buddle’s Ingolstadt and just eight points ahead of a relegation playoff. Notably, offensive production plummeted from 49 goals in ’09-’10 to just 32 goals last season, one of three clubs to average fewer than a goal per match (along with relegated clubs Rot-Weiß Oberhausen and Arminia Bielefeld).
Based on the preseason results, it seems that Taylor figures in the efforts of Andre Schubert to turn the offense around, with Taylor generally starting up top alongside fellow new acquisition Nick Proschwitz. They’ll open that campaign against Hansa Rostock (and their awesome logo), the former club of Heath Pearce that themselves played in the 3rd Liga last season.
Ricardo Clark arrived in the 2nd Bundesliga from the opposite direction of Taylor, as Eintracht Frankfurt was somewhat surprisingly relegated from the 1st Bundesliga in 2010-11 after having challenged for Europa League spots in two of the previous three seasons. While not quite a giant club, Eintracht’s relegation was only their 4th in history (although all have happened in the last 25 years as they’ve become a bit of a yo-yo club) and they had the 16th-highest attendance in all of Europe, with Commerzbank-Arena having hosted five matches during the 2006 World Cup. So, in other words, they have the sort of financial clout that should make them a force in the 2nd Bundesliga (think of Newcastle United playing in the Football League Championship in 2009-10).
Clark made just 11 appearances in that relegation season, a result coming from a combination of poor form (perhaps a carryover from his World Cup nightmare) and recurring injuries. He did play a few times in central defense, an intriguing possibility for him as a player who is better known for his defensive skills than his dribbling or passing. There will be competition at CM, as Eintracht added Matthias Lehmann from FC St. Pauli while keeping Pirmin Schwegler (32 starts last year) and Sebastian Rode (11 starts). They did lose Maik Franz (23 starts at CB) although they added youngsters Julian Dubba and Stefan Bell and returned loanee Habib Bellaïd so there will be competition there.
Eintracht has been acting like a club planning on a short stay in the 2nd division. Rather than sell off higher-priced talent, they’ve added some decent talent. Lehmann, who scored 8 goals for St. Pauli last year (38% of their total as a midfielder) has been brought in for help as has Algeria World Cup veteran Karim Matmour from Borussia Mönchengladbach. They’ll open with a trip to one of the consistently strongest 2nd Bundesliga teams, SpVgg Greuther Fürth. (Fun fact: SpVgg Greuther Fürth finished 4th last season, the 8th time in 11 seasons that they finished between 4th and 6th in the 2nd Bundesliga. That’s some consistent mediocrity.)
Remember Luis Robles? The once-capped goalkeeper is still at Karlsruher SC, with Karlsruher having avoided the relegation playoff with a 3-2 victory over Union Berlin on the final day of the season. It was an up-and-down season for Robles. After having transferred from 1. FC Kaiserslautern (where he played sparingly over four seasons), he began the season on the bench behind Kristian Nicht. After Nicht’s rough start (he allowed 15 goals in the first three matches, including five in a draw with Energie Cottbus and four each against SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Hertha BSC), Robles was promoted. He started every match from October 16 through February 7, but then was benched following a 4-1 loss to Ingolstadt. He returned to the lineup when Nicht suffered an injury against VfL Osnabrück but returned to the bench for the final two matches. Nicht gets the last laugh, no?
Surprisingly, it was Nicht who sent his separate ways while Robles remains to battle Dirk Orlishausen, brought in from 3rd Liga club FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt. Orlishausen has been starting in the exhibition season, so it seems that Robles will begin the season on the bench. However, if Karlsruher’s defense is leaky again— and they were the only team in Germany’s three fully professional leagues to allow greater than 2 goals per match last year (St. Pauli was the only other to allow even 2.0 GPG)— you have to believe Robles will get his chance.
MSV Duisburg visits Wildparkstadion (easily one of the ten best stadium names on the planet) in the opener for both clubs on Sunday. What might have been a clash of Yanks in the nets of course has been ruined by Robles’ likely reserve status and David Yelldell’s move to Bayer Leverkusen.
Finally, one of the most exciting Nats prospects is Bobby Wood at 1860 Munich. The 18 year-old Hawaiian and USA U-20 international made his professional debut in January. The forward, having spent the first part of the season as a prominent U-23 squad player, suffered an injury in March that derailed his season. However, he has been with the first team throughout the preseason and has been featuring as a starter or sub in preseason. Looking at some match reports and analysis, it appears that he has been used both at forward and in an attacking midfield/winger role.
Captain Benjamin Lauth and Đorđe Rakić figure to get most of the minutes at striker (although there have been rumors of potential sales), but the rest of the forward corps— while eight total are on the roster— are all under the age of 23, which would suggest that Wood isn’t fighting any age bias (particularly if there are any struggles). If he can get consistent minutes and contribute to the attack, you have to believe that Wood will be a strong candidate for the 2012 Olympics, and I imagine his first goal will spark many a “Cap him now!” demands.
1860 will open the 2010-11 season on Sunday as they visit newly-promoted 3rd Liga champion Eintracht Braunschweig (a club name that just screams “German”) to its first 2nd Bundesliga season since being relegated in 2006-07.
I checked out the top American goal scorers in Europe back in January (top flight leagues here and lower level guys here), so I thought I would give the goalkeepers some love this week. For the goalies, I am doing all guys (top flight and lower level) in one post and these numbers include all competitions (League/Cup/Champions League/Europa League/etc).
But here are the goalies with the most clean sheets in Europe (through games of Tuesday, May 3). I am just going to list down to guys with at least four.
David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg) – 13
Tim Howard (Everton) – 8
Brad Friedel (Aston Villa) – 6
Nick Noble (Ljungskile SK) – 6
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/Hull City) – 5
Luis Robles (Karlsruher) – 4
Josh Wicks (IFK Mariehamn) – 4
From what I can find, David Yelldell’s 10 clean sheets during league play are the sixth most in the German 2. Bundesliga. Add in his three during cup competitions and his 13 look to be the second most among 2. Bundesliga goalkeepers (Simon Jentzsch of FC Augsburg leads the way with 14 across all competitions).
Looking at the Premier League, Tim Howard’s eight clean sheets are tied with Asmir Begovic (Stoke City) and Paul Robinson (Blackburn Rovers) for the seventh most, while Brad Friedel’s six are tied with Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan Athletic) and Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) for the 12th most.
Back to Yelldell for a minute, but he has put together a nice little season with Duisburg and could possibly be in the Gold Cup picture if Bob Bradley wants to put him on the roster over Marcus Hahnemann (getting older) or Brad Guzan (getting married during some of the Gold Cup). And he has a chance at some hardware on May 21 when Duisburg takes on Schalke in the DFB Pokal Final. It will be Duisburg’s fourth German Cup finals appearance (1966, 1975, 1998), but they have never walked away with the trophy.
Luis Robles came off the bench for the last 34 minutes as Karlsruher’s starting goalkeeper picked up an injury. He entered the game with the score tied at 1-1, gave up one goal, but Karlsruher scored the game-tying goal in injury time.