Saturday, May 22, 2021

Brotherly Glove

First of all, pardon my AAotY hiatus this week. Work progressively turned into a bear, but now I'm all ready to step back into the time machine. But wait, what's this I'm just realizing? So far, not a single keeper has snagged one of these snazzy, obviously life-changing AAotY's. That has to be an oversight... right?

Except no, I went back and double-checked. There have been several outstanding campaigns from American netminders, but there's always someone else who went berzerk. Kasey Keller's fantastic second half upon arrival at 'Gladbach in 2004-05? Well, then you had the biggest season of DaMarcus Beasley's career. What about Tim Howard's terrific 2011-12 performance? Yeah, that was the year Deuce went mental. How about Brad Friedel's 2005-06 wonder display? This was the year Jay DeMerit became a legend.

I could pick other season from all three, and the same thing happens - somebody just starred a little more. One could reasonably argue that I erred by picking Sacha Kljestan over Howard for 2013-14, but that ship has sailed. However, this whole thing wear goalies get no love is over. For good. There will be keepers winning this thing plenty from here.

Let's kick off the golden era of American netminders with a couple of obvious picks and one that was a bit closer call.

03/04 Tim Howard

It's a real shame and rather silly that some folks only remember this campaign for the rebound Howard knocked straight to the pouncing Costinha in the 90th minute of the decisive home leg of the Champions League round-of-16. Not only have I sworn since that moment that at least as much blame should go to Wes Brown for spectating while the Porto midfielder waltzed past to score the tie-stealing goal, but Howard did post shutout wins on five matchdays of a tough group phase (and stopped a penalty in the other one). And he posted 12 league shutouts. And he was second in the Prem in victories and third in save percentage. And he backstopped the Red Devils to an FA Cup celebration. This wasn't, in my opinion, the best individual performance season Howard would have in England, but he was certainly good enough to win the goalie spot on the Players Football Association Team of the Year. And well who am I to argue with an entire Premier League of players? Make it an award double.

02/03 Brad Friedel

From one PFA Team of the Year man to another we go. Friedel packed a lot into his award-winning campaign, including a Blackburn Player of the Season honor and his first taste of Europe with two rounds of UEFA Cup action. Only countryman Kasey Keller faced more EPL shots that season, and yet Big Brad somehow managed to lead the league in clean sheets with 15. Well, not somehow... it was probably those 161 saves that easily topped the league. Friedel led Rovers to a seventh place finish, in large part thanks to a sweep of Arsenal, a win at Chelsea and a home derby shutout defeat of Manchester United.

01/02 Brad Friedel

With profuse apologies to the best (read: only complete) season of John O'Brien's Ajax time and to Earnie Stewart's 10-goal, eight-assist contribution to NAC Breda's suprise package fourth place finish, it's got to be the Blackburn wall again. And again, the Rovers defense was an open gate, this time allowing the most shots on goal in the league (yes, of course he also was tops in saves this season... do you really need to ask?). Best of all, Friedel backstopped Blackburn to its first domestic cup triumph in 74 years. The netminder was splendid in winning six of the seven games on their way to the League Cup (then-Worthington Cup) crown, and maybe even better in the final victory over Spurs.

Unfortunately, I do not have a highlight reel from that glorious silver match... you're just gonna have to settle for watching the entire original telecast.

- Greg Seltzer

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