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USL Top Five – Goalkeepers to Watch

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/20/17, 7:09PM EDT


Which players will have a key role to play this USL season?

Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

It’s the one position on the field that stands out from the rest, and the one that can make or break a team’s hopes of a championship at the end of the season. Goalkeepers, for better or worse, can be the biggest difference makers in a game. Any of the 10 field players make a mistake, it won’t always be fatal, but that usually is not the case for a goalkeeper.

Before we continue, be clear this isn’t a list of the top five goalkeepers in the USL entering this season. That list is far too subjective, and more appropriate for a bar than a story like this. What this is, though, is a group of goalkeepers on whom a lot may rest this season if their team is to succeed.

Tomas Gomez, Rochester Rhinos

The 2016 USL Golden Glove winner with a 0.69 goals-against average – taking the honor thanks to Rio Grande Valley FC’s Callum Irving not playing quite enough minutes – Tomas Gomez will be hoping to prove he wasn’t simply a beneficiary of the Rochester Rhinos’ outstanding defensive scheme as he enters the new season as the squad’s No. 1.

Gomez certainly has a strong pedigree. A former member of the U.S. U20 National Team program, his .780 save percentage also ranked third in the league. If he maintains that level, the Rhinos will again be among the contenders for the USL Cup, and Gomez could be in the running for the Goalkeeper of the Year award his predecessors John McCarthy (2014) and Brandon Miller (2015) both claimed during their time with the club.

Photo courtesy Matt Wittmeyer / Rochester Rhinos

Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Devala Gorrick, Saint Louis FC

A USL All-League Second Team selection in 2016 for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Devala Gorrick made the offseason move to Saint Louis FC to be part of new STLFC Head Coach Preki’s overhaul of the roster. As he put it soon after the move, “I had a couple of offers that were fantastic offers, and were great teams and coaches as well, but I’d known about Preki for years. I’d known about Saint Louis’ organization and their coaching staff, and I had a feeling it was a challenge that would be a complete 180 for me in terms of intensity.”

Gorrick finished in the top five in each of the four main goalkeeping categories for the Switchbacks, but now will face the pressure of trying to help a side that has missed out on the postseason in its first two seasons. Expectations are high going into this year, and Gorrick will need to be at the top of his form.

Callum Irving, Ottawa Fury FC

A year ago, after going unselected in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Callum Irving was looking for an opportunity to kick-start a professional career. He found it with Rio Grande Valley FC, for whom he became a critical piece in the club’s second-place finish in the Western Conference in its inaugural season in the USL. That level of play caught the eye of the Canadian National Team, which called him up for his debut this offseason.

Now back in Canada with new USL club Ottawa Fury FC, Irving will be looking to cement his credentials over the course of a full season. With Head Coach Paul Dalglish’s emphasis on attacking soccer, utilizing a three-man back line regularly this preseason, Irving could see plenty of shots come his way. His numbers with the Toros – 0.65 goals-against average and .812 save percentage over 14 appearances – will be difficult to replicate, but if he comes close, Ottawa will be in good shape.

Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC

Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC

Cody Laurendi, OKC Energy FC

As OKC Energy FC struggled to hit the broad side of a barn door, let alone the back of the net, in the 2016 season, goalkeeper Cody Laurendi was arguably the difference as the side made a second consecutive appearance in the USL Cup Playoffs. The gregarious goalkeeper, who had previous stops in LA and Austin, appears to have found the ideal place for his abilities, becoming a fan favorite for his great personality off the field as well as his strong play on it.

Laurendi’s 0.92 goals-against average and .769 save percentage a season ago were an indicator of his abilities. Maintaining that standard with a slightly retooled defense in front of him would go a long way toward Energy FC returning closer to the top of the Western Conference, and maybe making a run at its first championship. 

Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC

Greg Ranjitsingh, Louisville City FC

As has been seen time and again, all it can take for a standout goalkeeper to come to the fore is an opening. Louisville City FC’s Greg Ranjitsingh was the latest entry in that list as a suspension to City starting goalkeeper Scott Goodwin gave him a chance, and the Brampton, Ontario native did the rest. Ranjitsingh recorded shutouts in his first five games for Louisville, earning the starting spot for good, and enters this year looking to build on his success.

With expectations as high as they are in Louisville after back-to-back Eastern Conference Final appearances, the 23-year-old will be aiming to repeat his 2016 performance that saw him post a 0.74 goals-against average and .759 save percentage. If he does, another look from the Trinidad & Tobago National Team could come sooner rather than later.

Five Others To Watch: Keasel Broome, Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Mitch Hildebrandt, FC Cincinnati; Mason Stajdujar, Orlando City B; Evan Newton, Sacramento Republic FC; Matt Cardone, San Antonio FC

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