In 2010, Donovan Ricketts was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. He wasn't around much in 2011 though as injuries took their toll. A broken forearm and strained quadriceps kept him out for long stretches of the season, opening the door for Josh Saunders. The Los Angeles Galaxy's longtime backup took advantage of the opportunity and showed why many in the organization felt he could start for many teams in the league. He anchored the best defense in MLS as the Galaxy won the Supporters' Shield.
Now Ricketts is back, but Saunders is still hanging around there and like Ricketts, he has a strong claim to the starting job too. That leaves head coach Bruce Arena with a decision to make heading into the playoffs. Does he go with his former Goalkeeper of the Year or the guy that spent most of the time between the sticks for LA this season?
"They’re both great goalkeepers," Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. "It shouldn’t matter who is in goal. The backline has faith and trust in both of those ‘keepers. They’ve both done well these past three years and we’ve just got to worry about protecting them. We’ve been doing that the whole year by not allowing that many shots and when [teams] do get chances on them, they come up big."
One question that Arena will have to answer is whether Ricketts is in form. He just recently returned from his quadriceps injury and hasn't gotten much match time. Another thing making things more difficult is that like Ricketts, Saunders has big game experience too. He's been in goal for LA's CONCACAF Champions League matches this season and came off the bench for an injured Ricketts in MLS Cup 2009. He's no stranger to the pressure.
So who will Arena go with? He's not tipping his hand. He has old reliable in Ricketts and the new hot thing in Saunders, but until Sunday's lineup is announced, Arena won't give us any idea which way he's leaning. I guess you can do that when you have two good goalkeepers and Gonzalez marshaling the back line. Lucky, Bruce.