Of Keepers and Assembly Lines

Aston Villa's move for young USA and Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan collapsed recently under the dire weight of the Home Office, but it got me thinking a bit about US Soccer's penchant for exporting the men between the pipes. A quick, admittedly unscientific and not at all rigorous, look at the Prem (El Guzano's proposed destination) reveals three American's with a solid lock on the starting spot for their clubs and the spent force that is Kasey Keller warming the bench for Fulham USA.

Had Guzan completed his move and managed to push Carson out of the starting role for Villa (admittedly not a guarantee), that would have made 4 out of 20 Premier League starting keepers waving the Stars and Stripes over their tea and crumpets. 1 in 5 keepers in what is, if not the best, then easily the most over-hyped league on the planet. And if Niemi goes down injured (let's face it--Keller is not getting past Niemi without an injury), that makes it 1 in 4! By contrast, only 6 English clubs in the English top-flight can boast starting keepers of said nationality, and that's generously granting them Robinson, who appears to have conceded easily yet again--this time giving up the starting spot in Tottenham's net.

What does it all mean?

There are, of course, those Bedlam-bound fops who claim that the influence of sports in the US that involve the hands allows us to produce magnificent keepers but not the same caliber of field players. Obviously, the position requires a bit more than handling ability, so we can dismiss those loonballs out of hand. A more interesting theory might be that the US is more likely, as a culture--sporting and otherwise, to produce decidedly odd, ruggedly individualistic, headstrong, confident athletes with reflexes and timing honed by a multi-disciplined, multi-sport approach to training. In other words--perfect goalkeeping material.

Now the second set of lunatic-fringe declaimers will come boiling out the walls like so many cockroaches, with the time-honored chant of "goalkeepers are not soccer players". As a field player whose brother happens to be one of that strange breed, I sympathize. But I'd like to see you play the game without one. And rarely does a weekend pass in any league in the world without one goalkeeper absolutely stoning* the opposition and turning a game on its head. With the possible exception of the goal-poaching striker, rarely does a single player have such a consistent influence on a club's results. All of which highlights the impressive nature of the accomplishments of US keepers.

So here's to you, American Goalkeeper Assembly Line! If the raft of young keepers coming up through the ranks is any indication, they'll be rolling of the line unabated for years to come. Now, if only we could fire up the Playmaker Production Plant or increase the supply coming from the Strikers Unlimited warehouse, US Soccer would really be in business!
* As opposed to "Stoning" the opposition, which typically involves using a combination of carefully-coifed hair, inane commentary, useless anecdotes, a liberal dash of "helpers", and a lethal side of Foudy to render one's foe helpless, numb, and usually crying tears of blood.


  1. Are the goalkeepers EVER going to go anywhere besides the EPL?

    I mean, I like the Prem plenty (alright I like Arsenal and that's it, you got me, alright!), but it gets a little old after a while. US Soccer won't be taken seriously if it only succeeds in 2 countries. We need some keepers to spread the US love all around Europe! Spain and Italy will be hard to break, but we could start in Bundesliga and Eredivisie and all that jazz, and build our way up...I don't know, I'm just a bit sick of this cliche US keeper in EPL thing.

    That said...YOU GO KEEPERS!! WOOO! You best be representin, brothas!!

  2. Well, we've had (or currently have) US keepers playing at the highest levels in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Chile, Norway, and France, among others. England is just a logical overseas destination given the language and the amount of cash those clubs are willing to throw at players.

    That said, I wouldn't mind seeing the US keeping pool spread about a bit.