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Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen great in 2012, but a “slam dunk” for GK of the Year?

Oct 22, 2012, 3:43 PM EDT

New England Revolution v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

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

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.

  1. dreadpirate82 - Oct 22, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    I think PST needs to start an annual Firing Squad award (or a name that is actually amusing & appropriate) for the keeper who took the most abuse every year. Naming it after Dan Kennedy seems like a fit.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 22, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      I mean to tell you, what they did to that man really ought to be illegal, eh?

    • eatcheson - Oct 22, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Actually, naming it the “Kennedy-Kocic” award after TFC’s hapless stand-in this year for the injured Frei may be even more appropriate. Plus, it has a nice ring to it.

      As to the debate over Nielsen–yes, he has been tested much less often than Gruenebaum, Kennedy, et al. But saying that Nielsen isn’t the best keeper in MLS this year because he has such a good defense in front of him is kind of like saying that Aaron Rodgers isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL this year because he has Jordy Nelson to throw to. It isn’t just having a good supporting cast.

      • Steve Davis - Oct 22, 2012 at 4:48 PM

        Correct. Didn’t say he wasn’t the best. Just said “it’s more of a discussion than Vermes seems to believe.” That’s all. Just a quibble, not a big argument.

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