A couple of wild cards here means this list could look considerably different in nine months. For instance, the LA Galaxy’s Carlo Cudicini is the two-time champs’ new backstopper, stomping his feet and ready to go for the LA Galaxy after all that time on Tottenham’s bench.
And do we really know what the Red Bulls have in Luis Robles (whose career resurrection is a fabulous story no matter what else happens) or in Ryan Meara, who was stampeding toward a league Rookie of the Year claim before injury cut down a 2012 campaign unfolding so wonderfully?
We’ll see. For now, here’s how we do see Major League Soccer’s Top 10 in Goalkeeping:
1. Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen (pictured)
2. Seattle’s Michael Gspurning
3. Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando >
Not at his tippy-top best in 2012, but still a guy you want on your side, leadership-wise, shot stopping-wise and the rest. Look for a bounce back in 2013. At 33 years old (about perfect for a goalkeeper) Rimando is in his 14th season as an MLS starter. His 14th!
4. Houston Dynamo’s Tally Hall >
A January spent with the United States national team could inspire Houston’s No. 1 to something greater still in 2013. Hall is already accustomed to the big occasion, toting a fairly impressive 6-3-1 playoff mark and appearances in MLS Cup finals in both of his first two seasons as Dominic Kinnear’s main man between the sticks.
5. Columbus’ Andy Gruenebaum
6. Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy >
Yes, he a couple of suspicious balls got by the Chivas USA ‘keeper in 2012, but can anyone blame the poor guy? He always had work to do, and the pressure was always at full boil considering the Goats’ anemic production at the other end. The new regime sees so much in Kennedy it is willing to buck the organizational model to keep him in goal at the Home Depot Center.
7. Toronto FC’s Stefan Frei >
Put him down as another wildcard, too, but one who has earned some benefit of the doubt in MLS. Frei was always good and frequently outstanding in his first three seasons as TFC starter. (In those typically hapless years around BMO Field, I often referred to Frei as “Toronto FC’s besieged man in goal.”) But a broken leg removed Frei for the entire 2012 season. The defense doesn’t look much improved this year on Ryan Neslen’s team, so TFC’s No. 1 will get plenty of chances to wear the hero’s cape once again.
8. San Jose’s Jon Busch
9. Chicago’s Sean Johnson >
10. D.C. United’s Bill Hamid >
Both Johnson and Hamid are talented as the day is long, but both are arriving into places in their career where the bobbles and wobbles need to come at less frequent intervals. The stakes are high, as both of their clubs appear to be Eastern contenders this year.