The Seattle Sounders notched their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire in front of a sold-out crowd of 36,223 home fans on Saturday, thanks in no small part to veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The 41-year-old former Borussia Mönchengladbach netminder, who announced his retirement for the end of this year, made a string of crucial and spectacular saves in a seven-minute stretch of the second half to preserve Seattle's one-goal lead. “That was world class,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “That was Kasey Keller from his prime. As you finish out a career, to be able to manage to put out performances like that is a tremendous tribute to the work he does on a daily basis."
Keller comes from a generation of top notch American goalkeepers that includes Everton's Tim Howard and Brad Friedel, who plays for Aston Villa and holds the record for most continuous games and most minutes ever played in the English Premiership. They were the vanguard of a deep pool of American keepers, a cliché in some parts of the world that US soccer was only good at producing players that could use their hands.
Unlike Keller, who started his professional career at Millwall in England's second division, both Friedel and Howard honed their skills in Major League Soccer with the Columbus Crew and the New York MetroStars respectively. MLS has been the place for American goalkeepers to develop and showcase their talents ever since its inauguration in 1996, however this season is already following an established trend of foreign goalkeepers flooding the league over the past few years. From 1998 to 2005, goalkeepers born in this country started a staggering 94 percent of MLS matches. Over the years that percentage has dropped and as of last weekend just 71 percent of games this season have featured a starting goalkeeper that was US-born.
Former Cologne keeper Mondragon beats the Red Bulls
One of the most-heralded foreign keeper signings since the Los Angeles Galaxy secured the services of Mexico’s Jorge Campos in 1996 is Colombian international Fayrd Mondragon, who helped the Philadelphia Union preserve a 1-0 home victory over the New York Red Bulls in front of another sell-out crowd on Saturday. With three wins and only a single loss (1-0 in Los Angeles last weekend), Philadelphia sits atop the Eastern Conference standings in their sophomore season. All three victories were 1-0 shut-outs by Mondragon, who has managed to revive his career after a tumultuous season last year at FC Köln. "We have three goals, three wins and three shutouts," Union coach Peter Nowak said. "I am not going to complain about that too much."
The Red Bulls might be the league’s most expensive team, but are not the only pre-season favorites that find themselves struggling in the early going. Los Angeles surrendered a 90th minute penalty kick in a 1-1 draw with DC United in front of 26,622 fans at the nation’s capital. David Beckham notched his second assist in as many games off a corner kick that Mike Magee headed home before Charlie Davies converted the equalizer for his league leading fourth goal of the season.
Champions Colorado suffer first defeat
The Galaxy have eight points from five games and sit third in the Western Conference, a point adrift of Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids. Salt Lake have two games in hand and are a perfect 3-0 after defeating the Revolution 2-0 in New England on Saturday in front of the league’s smallest crowd of less than 8000 fans for the second week in a row. Colorado suffered their first loss after starting the season with three straight wins, losing 3-0 in Dallas on Friday night. Dallas midfielder David Ferreira was named MLS Player of the Week by scoring twice and assisting on the third goal that gave his team their first win of the season.
The Houston Dynamo also won its first game of 2011 with a 3-1 defeat of the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday. Houston's win leaves only Portland and Chivas USA without a victory after four weeks of play. Expansion entry Portland, which had the week off, has yet to play a home game and will be opening its new Jeld-Wen Field stadium against Chicago on Thursday before FC Dallas comes to town next Sunday. Home matches are part of the problem for Chivas USA, which played to a scoreless tie with the Columbus Crew on Sunday and has failed to win in three home games so far this season.The Earthquakes played to a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC in front of just under 9000 home fans on Saturday, but in spite of the low numbers in San Jose and New England, the league managed an average attendance of 17,805 that exceeds last season's year-end total by more than 1,700. After a month of play the league’s goals per game average is 2.53, up from a 2.46 goals per game in 2010.