Monday, October 15, 2018

Handicapper's Guide: Goalkeeper of the Year

Okay, energy drain be damned, let's jump back in. This picture of this prize has come into much clearer focus since I started writing this bit a few weeks back. I thought then that the vote might be widely split, but it seems like most folks have come around to an obvious favorite.

The leader: Seattle's Stefan Frei tops the league in save percentage (by a decent margin), goals-against-average and expected goals allowed differential (by a decent margin). He should finally take this prize after finishing third last season.

Main finalist contenders: I was only tempted to have Sporting KC's Tim Melia as the front-runner, but he certainly looks good to make the nominated top three. His award-winning form from last season has continued unabated. Evan Bush of Montreal has weathered a couple of early gaffes to quietly enjoy a big season. He's the only one even remotely close to Frei in xGA differential, leads the league in saves (many of them doozies behind an inconsistent defense) and until recently had backstopped the Impact implausibly clear of the playoff line.

In another year perhaps: Speaking of fine stealth campaigns, Red Bulls netminder Luis Robles is arguably enjoying the best season of his career on a team fighting tooth and nail for the Supporters Shield.

Faded from view: By all the pertinent ratios, Portland backstop Jeff Attinella has been among the league's best this season. He's posted seven of the Timbers' eight shutouts and 10 of their 14 wins. The problem is, due to injuries and curious managerial choices, he's also only played 21 games. That won't get it done. At the end of July, I'd have put NYCFC's Sean Johnson in the top three. The team has slumped since then, and their netminder has not been above the fray of culpability. Is there still time for a late restorative charge? Doubtful.

Also... wait, there's an also?: It has probably gone unnoticed, but Nick Rimando has repeatedly saved Real Salt Lake's bacon (or at least kept them in games where they should have been blown to bits). Meanwhile, like Robles, LAFC's Tyler Miller has impressed quite a bit on a team that gives up a fair amount of big chances with numbers pushed forward. Some will also push for previous winner Andre Blake of Philly and Columbus keeper Zack Steffen, but I feel they've had better season than this one.


Next up? Defender of the Year.

- Greg Seltzer

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