Skip to content

Quality backup goalkeepers: extravagance or necessity?

Apr 12, 2012, 5:10 PM EDT

Paolo Tornaghi

Is a high-quality backup goalkeeper an extravagance in Major League Soccer?

Most of us may discuss and debate this leisurely, over cold ones with friends while trying desperately to remember that adorable server’s name. It’s just a hypothetical for us.

But for MLS decision makers this is a significant, real-world choice – with possible employment consequences. And them’s big consequences.

Toronto FC has a choice to make once Stefan Frei returns from a broken leg. Word comes that the choice may already have been made, as The Sun out of Canada says Aron Winter and crew were looking to move Frei, who was expendable because Milos Kocic developed apace and held steady in starting assignments.

Toronto, like so many other sides, has real needs around the field. So, can they afford to keep a potential starter on the bench when other needs are pressing? Making the right call could mean the difference in playoffs or no playoffs – and job or no job.

The five teams that may have such a “luxury,” if you consider it so:

Toronto FC – Kocic was in goal for the side’s one shining moment in 2012, the massive march win at Los Angeles. He’s been strong enough since then, which is why Frei may be on the outs.

Columbus – It’s getting harder to remember a time when William Hesmer wasn’t the No. 1 around Crew Stadium. But Andy Gruenebaum has never disappointed when forced by injury into duty. Gruenebaum is 29, hardly old for a goalkeeper. Kevin Hartman, 37, remains one of the league’s best, and Kasey Keller just hung ‘em up at 41. So Gruenebaum has time to latch onto a starting assignment somewhere.

D.C. United – This is a little out of nowhere, because the sample for second-year man Joe Willis remains tiny (just four matches this year, after three last year). But the 23-year-old sure looks up for a starting job somewhere. Would United consider making a move considering they have two promising ‘keeper prospects in Willis and U.S. under-23 Bill Hamid? (Not to mention young Andrew Dykstra, formerly a starter in Chicago.)

Chicago Fire – Everyone assumed the No. 1 shirt at Toyota Park was solid property of Sean Johnson, a quality up-and-comer who already has time with the U.S. national team, plus 41 career starts for the Fire. But along comes Paolo Tornaghi (pictured) – and the young Italian isn’t bad at all. Johnson is back from his time with the Olympic team, but it looks like Tornaghi is Frank Klopas’ man for now.

New England – Matt Reis has been the trusty incumbent for so long around Gillette Stadium, there has never been much need to discuss importing a young buck to push competition. For the last couple of years Bobby Shuttleworth has been backup, and a Shuttleworth appearance has generally not meant any significant dropoff in goal guarding quality. You wonder how many teams might be happy with Shuttleworth, 24, as a starter?

Latest Posts
  1. It’s me again! Vincent Tan calls out Malky Mackay

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Are you as tired of Vincent Tan as Cardiff City supporters are?

  2. Mats Hummels says his future is at Dortmund

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-BRAUNSCHWEIG Getty Images

    The German defender was courted by Manchester United and Real Madrid, but says he is at Dortmund for the long-run.

  3. UEFA Champions League preview: Liverpool face Basel, Arsenal defend the Emirates

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Wednesday features eight Champions League matches, including important matchups for Premier League sides Arsenal and Liverpool.

  4. Xabi Alonso breaks Bundesliga record for touches

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Munchen v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The newly signed Bayern midfielder had 204 touches in Munich’s 2-0 win over FC Koln.

  5. Norway calls up 15-year-old for Euro qualifying

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    FBL-NOR-OEDEGAARD Getty Images

    Martin Odegaard made his international debut this summer as Norway’s youngest player ever.

  6. Why do Manchester City struggle so much in the Champions League?

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-ROMA AP

    With City struggling in the group stages once again, why does this keep happening?

  7. PHOTOS: David Beckham, Beyonce, Jay-Z among stars at PSG vs. Barcelona

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham. Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham.

    All the stars were out to play as PSG took on Barca in the French capital on Tuesday.

  8. Xavi breaks record for Champions League appearances

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    The Barcelona midfielder appeared in his 143rd Champions League match today.

  9. Kevin Mirallas could miss serious time for Everton

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    The Belgian international was taken off the pitch on a stretcher this weekend with an apparent hamstring injury.

  10. UEFA Champions League roundup: PSG beat Barcelona, Chelsea top Sporting

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-BARCELONA AP

    Want a recap of all eight UCL games that took place across Europe on Tuesday? Look no further…

  11. Sporting CP 0-1 Chelsea: Blues win chippy UCL affair in Lisbon

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Chelsea dominated Sporting and should have won by more. AP

    Only Nemanja Matic, much to the chagrin of the Sporting crowd, could beat a fantastic Rui Patricio.

  12. Golden oldie: Francesco Totti becomes oldest scorer in Champions League history

    Sep 30, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    AS Roma Team Presentation Getty Images

    Magnifico from Totti, as Italian legend writes his name in the history books.

  13. Follow live – UEFA Champions League: Manchester City vs. AS Roma

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:18 PM EDT

    Will Yaya Toure and City get off to a winning start at St. James' on Sunday? Getty Images

    Moscow was skunked by Roma 5-1 in the first round of group matches, while City fell 1-0 to Bayern.

  14. Premier League Team of the Week: Find out who starred on Matchday 6

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Check out if your favorite player made it onto Round 6’s Team of the Week.

  15. UCL: Bayern Munich picks up win over CSKA Moscow in empty Arena Khimki

    Sep 30, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    APTOPIX Russia Soccer Champions League AP

    Mario Gotze drew a penalty that Thomas Muller finished, and Bayern Munich emerged victorious from a relatively-quiet stadium.

  16. PST’s Major League Soccer power rankings: More movement, just not No.1

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    oscar_pareja AP

    The Los Angeles Galaxy are really, really good, while Chivas USA is across town and the PR table.

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap