Tuesday’s column: Looming U.S. goalkeeper shortage could lead to net losses

i-1b36a60124cebd699211b130c4db5df0-large_tim-howard-1.jpgIs Tim Howard the last of a series of world-class goalkeepers to man the U.S. net? (AP Photo).

Where is the next great U.S. goalkeeper? And what does it mean if this country fails to develop one?

Read the column here.

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    Before asking why (or If) we are not producing world class goalkeepers now, you should ask why we produced them in the past. To understand why the US has produced such world class goalkeepers in the past you have to understand what makes a goalkeeper great. Great keepers require raw athleticism and great anticipation and positioning. The US’s ability to create world class athletes is well documented and is why we a such a large pool of possible keepers is available. The keeper position requires general athleticism. Reaction time and reach not sports specific athleticism that other positions require. Anticipation and positioning is something that develops with experience. That is why keepers tend to peak later and last longer than other positions. Here the US also has an advantage with the College system. US keepers have an additional 4 years to prepare, compared to other countries, before they have to prove themselves as professionals. The US also has the somewhat weaker pro-division (MLS), which in the past relied on younger players.

    It is only that last point which has changed. MLS has gotten stronger, meaning they can recruit better talent and are no longer reliant on what is coming out of the college system. Also, many young keepers lately have chosen to by-pass MLS and go straight to Europe. I think that is a critical mistake for a young keeper. They need to get as much playing time as possible early in their career so they develop.