American Goalkeepers Lead the Way
As more and more American field players have gravitated to the EPL and Championship the focus on American Goalkeepers has faded. Yet today, as has been the case for the past ten plus years the best American players in Europe play between the posts. Marcus Hannehman of Reading is currently ranked as the best Goalkeeper in the EPL by Actim while Everton’s Tim Howard and Blackburn’s Brad Friedel are also ranked among the 50 best EPL players at any position by Actim, the EPL’s official keeper of stats.
This is a continuation of a pattern over the past decade which has seen Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller establish themselves as the only legitimate American superstars on an International stage. Keller’s time with Leicester City demonstrated his ability to lift a newly promoted team to a near League cup championship and two European qualifications. Keller showed the same ability with Spurs playing every minute two consecutive seasons before giving way to Paul Robinson. Friedel has been a mainstay with Blackburn since moving from Liverpool in 2000. In 2003, Tim Howard became the first MLS player lured to major European club when Man United bought him from the Metrostars. Thanks to Friedel and Keller the quality of American keepers were well established in England and Sir Alex Ferguson had no qualms about purchasing an American Goalkeeper.
The success of American keepers hasn’t simply been limited to the big names. Ian Feuer (West Ham and Wimbledon), Mike Amman (Charlton) Juergen Sommer (Queens Park Rangers), Joe Cannon (Lens), and Zach Thornton (Benfica) all got an opportunity to play in Europe within the last ten years. It seemed European clubs were willing to role the dice on American Goalkeepers while shying away from what has long been perceived as a lack of technical skill by American field players. In fact when I followed MLS more closely in the 1996 to 2001 time period the standard of goal keeping by American keepers was collectively far superior to that of the field players at any position, be they American or Internationals. Marcus Hannehman was one of those keepers who distinguished himself in the early days of MLS while with Colorado and in 1999 he got his opportunity to move to England.
This season once again, the three American keepers in the EPL are proving that we do know how to grow Goalkeepers on this side of the pond. Now if only we could produce some top class field players to compliment them in the top divisions of European Football.