Editorial — Being a goalkeeper is a mentally tough position. It’s not just the physical aspect of being a goalkeeper that finds the job to be so demanding. Instead, goalkeepers must keep a sharp mental approach to the game. They’re the players that are either the heroes or the scapegoats.
Goalkeepers throughout all of North America are growing a sport in a region where it might not be a top-tier sport. For example, soccer is gaining momentum in the United States, but it’s not overhauling the NFL anytime soon.
There are goalkeepers that are making themselves household names, though. In Major League Soccer, numbers and statistics don’t always make the best goalkeeper. Instead, adversity also can propel a goalkeeper to the top spot.
Without further ado, here are the top three goalkeepers in MLS.
1. Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders FC
The consistency that Stefan Frei has is remarkable.
Ever since he came to Seattle, Frei has been the clear-cut starter. He has led the Sounders to two MLS Cup Championship titles. The last two years, especially, have seen Frei overcome a lot of adversity. No, he did not battle injuries. But, his teammates around him did.
Frei had to manage a rotation of defenders. He finally found some consistency with Kim Kee-hee and Chad Marshall in front of him last season. However, when Marshall was injured — and did not return — in 2019, Frei saw a revolving door of centerbacks slot beside Kim. Goalkeepers count on consistency from the defenders. Some of the guys that were put in the centerback slot had never featured with Frei before, like Jonathan Campbell and Saad Abdul-Salaam.
His numbers were impressive in 2019, as Frei recorded 10 shut outs in 34 appearances. The consistency around Frei comes down to his appearances, too. In Seattle, you can only count on one hand how many regular-season games Frei has missed. Is he wearing the best goalkeeper padded shorts? Either way, Frei is able to maintain upkeep on himself while diving to the ground for saves.
In 2019, Frei recorded 116 saves, which put him at fourth-most in the MLS. His 10 shut outs were tied for third-most in the in the league, along with Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake.
The narrative around Seattle is to always count on Frei. No matter how much rotation there is in the squad, Frei has been a constant source of reliability. That won’t change in 2020.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) December 20, 2019
2. Bill Hamid, D.C. United
Bill Hamid has found himself back in MLS.
His stellar play in 2017 led him to pursue an opportunity in Europe. However, his overseas career never quite kicked off with Danish club FC Midtjylland. He made one appearance for the club in 2018 and then went on loan to join D.C. United in August.
Hamid’s play reminded D.C. United why the first-generation American deserved to be paid. In 2018, Hamid returned to MLS and made 14 starts, compiling 51 saves and five shut outs. His loan extended into the full 2019 season, where he was third in saves with 126. He recorded 14 shut outs to lead the league in a tie, along with Atlanta’s Brad Guzan.
Hamid’s storyline in MLS isn’t traditional by any means. He left, looking for something more in Europe, and came back disgruntled. However, his emotions about Europe turned into something positive for D.C. United and the MLS.
What Hamid brings, too, in D.C. isn’t just show-stopping saves. For a team that’s so young, he brings leadership and a veteran presence.
If D.C. wants to make it back to the playoffs in 2020, the club needs to build pieces around Hamid. The defense has relied on the goalkeeper too many times to count. While it’s great to have a presence in net, D.C. can’t just rely on a one-man show.
The boys going campin’ 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BkvfXNf2nK
— D.C. United (@dcunited) December 30, 2019
3. Luis Robles, Inter Miami
It’s going to take a while to get used to seeing Luis Robles’ name not associated with the New York Red Bulls. Part of the club since 2012, Robles was recently picked up by Inter Miami for their first-ever MLS season.
The Red Bulls didn’t have their best season in 2019. While they made the playoffs, the club couldn’t fight to get back to the MLS Cup Championship match. Instead, New York was knocked out by the Philadelphia Union in the first round.
Robles wasn’t the problem, though.
Tied for fifth-most shut outs in 2019, with nine, Robles made 88 saves and provided leadership for the Red Bulls. That’s what the club is going to miss most from Robles, as they are on the hunt for a new goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Miami picks up a veteran with much to prove, coming off a decent-at-best season.
Remember, numbers aren’t everything in being a goalkeeper. Although, Robles has gone three-straight seasons without making more than 100 saves, he’ll look to improve the goals allowed number first.
Luis Robles says his goodbye to the organization. pic.twitter.com/stwRrn6lMU
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 21, 2019