Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Goalkeepers Aren't Mls' Saving Grace

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Goalkeepers Aren't Mls' Saving Grace

Article excerpt

Even in its darkest days, the one thing American soccer produced was good goalkeepers. In the North American Soccer League, where American soccer players often were hard to find, the goalies were native sons. Players such as Bob Rigby, Shep Messing and Arnie Mausser were among the first American stars of the league.

Today, that is still the case. The most successful of the American players to go overseas have been goalkeepers. While most field players have had to battle to keep their spots on European rosters, American goalkeepers have become fixtures in their teams' lineups.

But if you look around Major League Soccer, the biggest weaknesses on most teams have been the goalkeepers. The league has turned up no new talent to supplement the national team's three regular keepers: Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Juergen Sommer. In fact, not only has no new talent turned up, but most of the goalkeepers who have played have been pretty woeful. The only goalkeepers to show any consistent quality this year have been Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos with Los Angeles, former national team goalkeeper Tony Meola with New York/New Jersey, and Dallas' Mark Dodd, who has 11 national team caps but none since 1992. When Friedel returned to the league from Turkey in August, he immediately became the league's second-best goalkeeper. "Maybe that's by design," said national team coach Steve Sampson. "Campos, Friedel and Meola are in a different class. Then there's (Mark) Dougherty (of Tampa Bay) and Dodd. After that, it falls off dramatically." The league didn't make much of an effort to sign the best goalkeepers, possibly part of the assumption that high-scoring offensive soccer would draw more fans. Keller, Friedel (until recently), Sommer and the rest of the plentiful foreign-based goalkeeper corps weren't signed by MLS as the league, with the exception of the signing of the flashy Campos, went after goal-scoring forwards and playmaking midfielders. "Before the year, we said that if the league was interested in a ttracting fans, they should look for goalkeepers with no hands," said Kansas City coach Ron Newman. …

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