Battle of the Keepers: NWSL Goalkeeper Power Ranking

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RJ Allen:

Hey Jordan, you wanna talk about goalkeepers?

Jordan Small:

Of course! Who doesn’t want to talk about the best position in the game?

RJ Allen:

So before we started,Jordan and I ranked 1-10 the best goalkeepers in the league. Then we made a joint list I think we’re both pretty happy with.

We’re both pretty happy, right?

Jordan Small:

I think so. We talked about how the middle of the pack could be interchanged right now because of how well everyone is playing so far.

RJ Allen:

Someone has to be number 10 and sadly you and I both put Adrianna Franch in that spot.

Jordan Small:

You know, looking at Portland’s stats this year, people might scratch their head at why we put her at the bottom. I mean she has only given up one goal. But her distribution has been anything but clean. She has really put her defenders in a tough spot and you can see that they are frustrated with her. These mistakes may not have cost them yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens soon.

RJ Allen:

It’s amazing how well she played in 2013 and after some time off because of being hurt, some time overseas, and a year of being a backup, she looks nothing like the player so many thought would be a staple on the national team.

Jordan Small:

Yeah, I mean even in a few camps last year, we thought she would be getting back in with the national team. Now we are seeing why she was the backup to Michelle Betos last season.

RJ Allen:

Number 9 is a 2 for 1 special. We both agreed that because of how the season has gone to rank Lydia Williams and Jane Campbell together.

Which, let’s be fair, drops Williams a few spots.

Jordan Small:

Of course, since they both have played only one game, we thought it was fair to put them together. Obviously Campbell had a rough outing last weekend in Seattle, but I don’t think that is indicative of how Campbell will be at the professional level. On the other hand, you have a goalkeeper like Williams who played very well on opening weekend and picked up the win for Randy Waldrum’s side. It will be interesting to see what Waldrum does this week with his goalkeepers.

RJ Allen:

We’ve seen good goalkeepers have bad games but usually you aren’t starting a rookie over a top 10 international keeper. I think it has to play mind games a bit on both goalkeepers going into this weekend.

Even if Williams is back in goal.

Jordan Small:

Absolutely. I think Waldrum has an interesting situation on his hands.

But like you said, starting a rookie over a top 10 international keeper is not always the smartest decision. It’s even worse when it’s on the road against one of the best home teams in the league.

RJ Allen:

Him picking Campbell was a head scratcher. Starting her in Seattle feels like an even bigger one.

Jordan Small:

Exactly. But now that she has that first game under her belt, I hope she continues to improve.

I also think it was super smart to leave her in for the whole game. Really helps with the confidence going forward.

RJ Allen:

The next place is hard because I think we’re getting into a list of goalkeepers that are playing well but they have to be somewhere so they end up lower than fans will think they should be. So, at Number 8 we put Kailen Sheridan.

Jordan Small:

Sheridan was a wild card for me. I had seen her play in college and for the Canadian national team a few times. I think she has played well this season. The first game of her professional career, she gives up one goal off of a penalty kick. You can’t complain too much with that.

RJ Allen:

And the Dowie goal I think would have been hard for most goalkeepers to save.

I think she still looks like a young goalkeeper but right now I think she is playing pretty well.

Jordan Small:

For sure. Dowie is a world class goalscorer. Not many people are stoping that.

RJ Allen:

I do think with two rookies, a second-year player and Pearce as lead on the backline, she has to be a little bit more commanding.

Jordan Small:

She definitely does not have it easy in her first year. But I am sure that Pearce has been a great help adjusting to this level. I mean who better to have as your centerback in your first year as a pro?

RJ Allen:

I think if anyone can help her grow to be a stronger leader, it’s Pearce.

Jordan Small:

Definitely.

RJ Allen:

Number 7 is going to get us into some hot water, I think, but we did both agree on this one. Number 7, Ashlyn Harris.

Jordan Small:

She had to end up somewhere on the list. I put her down here because she has made some mistakes that have put her team in dangerous situations. This past weekend against Washington, she had some moments where I was like ‘what are you doing?’

But she has one of the shakiest defensive lines in the league right now, so I think number 7 is a good spot for her.

RJ Allen:

Her decision making has been very much “they can’t do the thing so I will do the thing for them” which, with the backline she has, I can understand. But it doesn’t make for great goalkeeping.

Jordan Small:

As cool as it looks, I don’t think you want to see your goalkeeper performing diving headers at the top of your own 18 yard box.

RJ Allen:

The more the line breaks down the more she has to do things that take away from her own skill set. Which is not going to do Orlando favors in the long run.

Jordan Small:

Not at all. She is a solid goalkeeper but does a little too much sometimes.

RJ Allen:

Number 6 might shock a few people but we went Abby Smith.

Jordan Small:

Abby Smith is a name that NWSL fans should get used to hearing. She is coming off a knee injury that kept her out most of last year, but she has a ton of potential. We’ve seen what she can do in the first two games of the season. The first game against FCKC may not have been the best, but man did she have a great game against Sky Blue. I really think she should have won Save of the Week. That’s a different conversation though.

RJ Allen:

It is but I think it’s one we agree about.

Smith has really looked good in the first town games for a team we both agree will surprise a few teams this year. She has not looked unsure once this season.

Jordan Small:

I think she will be the key to Boston having a better season. If she can continue her great play, this could be a year to remember for the Breakers.

RJ Allen:

How long before you think we see her get a national team call up, or do we?

Jordan Small:

I would like to see her get a call up. I’m not sure we will though.

RJ Allen:

Number 5 is a player I really thought we’d have higher until I started ranking them all, national team #1 Alyssa Naeher.

Jordan Small:

At the time of the SheBelieves Cup, I was calling Naeher the best goalkeeper in the world. I still stand by that. However, she has not looked her best as of late. The first game of the season was not a good one from her. She struggled with positioning a lot in that game. But then she came out in the second game and shut out FCKC at Toyota Park. I know she can play better and I can’t wait to see Naeher back at her best. Naeher at her best is my favorite.

RJ Allen:

Naeher is a really, really good goalkeeper but I have a hard time calling her world class. And if you are the number one goalkeeper in the US I think you need to be world class. And she hasn’t shown that to me this year for country or club.

But I do again her best is really damn good.

Jordan Small:

I think she is in a difficult spot because she has to follow up Hope Solo. I just wish Solo was around to help her transition into the number one instead of just being thrown in there.

RJ Allen:

I do wonder what it says for the future of USWNT goalkeeping, if anything, that all the current goalkeepers in the conversation are 5-10 and none are top 4.

Jordan Small:

I also think that says something about the strength of goalkeepers internationally. But you’re absolutely right, it is a little bit worrisome that they are not in the top 4. However, there is a goalkeeper in the top 4 that you and I both would agree should see time with the national team. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever happen.

RJ Allen:

Before we get to that goalkeeper let’s talk about our number 4. A goalkeeper who happens to be the third most capped USWNT goalkeeper, Nicole Barnhart.

Jordan Small:

Man, Nicole Barnhart. The goalkeeper that never seems to drop off. Barnie is a special one. She has been probably the most consistent goalkeeper in the NWSL over the years. It has been no different in year five. She has made some incredible saves that have really kept her team in it. If it wasn’t for her and Becky Sauerbrunn, I don’t know where FCKC would be right now.

RJ Allen:

She is an ageless wonder of soccer. Someone who really is just always there, always knows what needs to be done and always works her tail off to do what she can to get her team the win.

Underrated I think by a lot of fans.

Jordan Small:

I really wish she was able to play more for the national team. Timing is everything at the national team level, especially at the goalkeeper position. But you can’t argue that she is one of the best to ever play in the league.

RJ Allen:

I would argue that if we’re just talking NWSL she is the best goalkeeper the league has seen.

Jordan Small:

I can’t argue that.

RJ Allen:

Let’s talk top 3, shall we? Kicking off the top 3 is a goalkeeper I know you watch very closely, Steph Labbe.

Jordan Small:

Ah, yes. Steph Labbé. Let’s just say that the Washington Spirit are very lucky that she stuck around. She has been incredible for them this season. I mean if you look at the game against North Carolina in week one, she is the only reason that game didn’t end up 5-0, 6-0. She finished with seven saves I believe. Just incredible. But she did get kind of crossed up in the Orlando game on the game tying goal. She could really save the season for the Spirit.

RJ Allen:

She really has looked sharp lately. And she is is getting toward her peak goalkeeper years, later than peak field player years, which is great for both Washington and Canada.

Though I do still worry about her having to over compensate for her backline.

Jordan Small:

I think that this backline will get better in a few weeks now that Caprice Dydasco has been cleared. But if you’re Washington and Canada, you have to be happy with the product you are getting from your number one.

RJ Allen:

Number 2 and number 1, you and I could have swapped and felt pretty good about. But our number two right now is Haley Kopmeyer.

Jordan Small:

Haley Kopmeyer is finally getting her chance at number one. Good things come to those who wait. After waiting for so long behind Solo, she is finally getting her chance. She has looked so good in her first two games of the year. I can’t wait to see what she can do moving forward. I wish we could see her get called into the national team, but I just don’t think that’ll happen. We’ll just have to settle for seeing her lead the team in Seattle instead.

RJ Allen:

I would take her on the national team over just about anyone right now. She has clearly learned from Solo over her time there when it comes to deciding to make a move and doing it. She really looks like someone who could spend the next decade playing at a super high level.

Jordan Small:

I don’t disagree with that.

If she continues to impress this season, maybe we will see her get a call up this year.

RJ Allen:

Shall we talk about the number 1? I believe it’s that time.

Jordan Small:

I think we owe the people that much. So let’s talk about our number 1.

Sabrina D’Angelo has not allowed a single goal all season, so she was my obvious choice for number 1.

RJ Allen:

Going D’Angelo as the number one was pretty easy even with Kopmeyer playing the way she is, yeah.

Jordan Small:

Although I think you could make the case for Kopmeyer to be number 1, D’Angelo has piggybacked off of an incredible 2016 championship game performance.

She wasn’t forced to be very active in game one, but those pesky Portland Thorns really put her to work. She showed why she deserves to be number 1.

Do you think this puts John Herdman in a tough spot when it comes to the number 1 spot in net for Canada?

RJ Allen:

I think it does but I think it’s a problem that any coach would love to have.

Right now if I were Herdman I would go D’Angelo 1, Labbe 2, but I can understand having Labbe start for Canada as well.

I do wonder if she has less of the confidence issues that Labbe has fought in the past too, which can help.

Jordan Small:

I think I would go with Labbé just because she has more experience at the international level. However, with no major tournaments coming up, this could be the time to have a battle play out. It’s a nice situation to be in.

RJ Allen:

It really is. And for North Carolina having her be at the level they are with everything else that’s going for them? They have a shot at the playoffs for sure.

Jordan Small:

I think they are the most complete team in the league right now.

RJ Allen:

We are planning to revisit the goalkeepers in the league a few times this season. Who do you think has the most room to make the biggest jump up the board in that 10-6 range?

Jordan Small:

Probably Abby Smith. I think that if she keeps playing the way she has been, she can be a star in this league.

RJ Allen:

Yeah I really think she can go pretty far.

I think Sheridan can make a jump but that is also going to be a lot to do with her backline.

Jordan Small:

I agree with you on that. Sheridan will have to really learn to control that backline.

RJ Allen:

Any final thoughts on the league and goalkeepers?

Jordan Small:

You know, the goalkeeping has been great to start off the year. I think this could be the most competitive year on record for goalkeepers. Nothing makes me happier than great goalkeeping, so this should be fun.

RJ Allen:

I agree. I’m looking forward to seeing some great goalkeeping this year and seeing if any of the non starters get time and who might break in to the league.

Jordan Small:

Is there a certain spot in the league where you could see a non-starter get some time?

RJ Allen:

Portland I think gives the best odds.

Jordan Small:

I definitely agree with that. I think the only question there is when? The 

RJ Allen:

It’s only a matter of time before Franch has a game like Campbell the way she’s playing.

Jordan Small:

I hope Parsons makes the change before it costs them.

I think that’s really the only place we will see a different person in net unless you are looking at someone being away on national team duties.

RJ Allen:

I think we’ll see. Never know what might happen with only 20 goalkeepers on the rosters right now.

Jordan Small:

And that’s what is so much fun about goalkeeping.

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anon
Guest

Why isn’t this just written in normal list format with comments from each of you for each keeper rather than in a hard-to-decipher chat dialog?

RJ Allen
Guest

Because this is how we wanted to write it.

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