Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen certainly does deserve careful consideration as Goalkeeper of the Year. But I’d like to argue briefly with SKC manager Peter Vermes, who calls this thing a slam dunk.
See for yourself. Here’s what he told MLSSoccer.com:
I think he’s got to be a slam dunk for Goalkeeper of the Year. He’s had so many shutouts, so many great performances, been so consistent from Game 1 all the way through now to Game 33. He’s just a big-time goalkeeper.”
Big time goalkeeper? We can all give that a big check. Consistent? Check. Great performances (starting with his big night against the Red Bulls on Saturday)? Check-arooney!
But if “The White Puma” is the top goalkeeper in MLS this year, it’s not by some eight-lane-highway wide margin. Columbus’ Andy Gruenebaum has been nothing short of heroic all of 2012. Given the differences in the 10 guys in front of them – Sporting Kansas City’s team is measurably superior – Columbus’ back-stopper had far, far more going on near his own goal.
The difference in the number of shots faced is laughable, 163 for Gruenebaum versus just 99 for Nielsen. That’s a 61 percent difference, for those of you without a calculator within reach.
Michael Gspurning had a good year in goal for Seattle, although it was interrupted by injury. Tally Hall did little wrong in Houston. Nick Rimando and Kevin Hartman were typically solid. None were too far behind Nielsen if any at all.
(Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy was exceptional until, understandably, the shell-shock kicked in.)
In the end, most of the awards are going to fall Nielsen’s way because these things migrate naturally toward men on playoff teams, so Gruenebaum may get shut out. And nobody can throw too much fuss over Nielsen getting honors (me included) because he’s certainly deserving.
But let’s not get carried away. In the “credit where credit is due department,” let’s all recognize that Nielsen ranks up high in the pecking order of MLS goalkeepers, but it’s not like he’s peerless.