MLS Goalkeeper Howlers: Crepeau, Bono, & Richey With Dubious Decisions

Goalkeepers are an underappreciated breed. But that won’t stop us from devouring and revelling in the mistakes they make, sometimes catastrophic, sometimes inconsequential. Morbid curiosity is a hell of a drug—we know these goalkeepers are expected to be perfect and could end up benched if they commit too important a blunder. It’s the “you had one job” phenomenon: It’s fascinating when a person with theoretically one important task screws up in the public eye.

In this column, we periodically look at mistakes keepers make in MLS, why they happen, and what they mean for the keeper. Some of them are not outright howlers, or even result directly in goals. But we learn about keepers and their craft in looking at their mistakes.

So, without further ado, here are five from Week 6:

Maxime Crepeau’s spill

Crepeau, the young Canadian keeper who beat out Zac MacMath for Vancouver’s starting job in preseason, let the ball slip straight to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was so startled by the spill that he scuffed it wide:

A lucky play for Crepeau in the second half of a 0-0 game. It seemed that he let the cross fly too far into his midsection, making it difficult on himself to soften the ball with his hands. The turf may not have helped there, nor did the menacing presence of Zlatan looming in front of him. 

This play shows the danger of kneeling too low to gather descending shots and crosses. Crepeau was probably right to range as low as he did there, but staying more upright can simplify things.

Alex Bono’s adventures

This is an outrageous goal from CJ Sapong:

But the finish should never have been that easy. Bono shouldn’t be that far out of goal in a situation like that. He was already standing at the top of his box when TFC turned the ball over, but not retreating was a mistake. It seems that he expected the flight of the ball to either carry Sapong into a direct breakaway or bounce past him and easily into his arms. That’s not a bet Bono can afford to make.

The ball could easily have escaped Sapong. In that scenario, though, a defender could have softly headed the ball back, or Bono could have calmly claimed it. Once Sapong magically controls it, Bono is in a helpless position — Sapong’s touch takes him wide, thus in effect rounding the keeper and taking Bono out of the play. Stay back in the goal, and Sapong has little chance of immediately generating a quality shot. 

Tyler Miller, masquerading

I’m having a difficult time deciphering what exactly LAFC’s Miller was doing here:

Here’s what I’m thinking: Miller called Walker Zimmerman off and charged out to claim the cross, inducing Zimmerman to box out the D.C. United player. The cross bounced at an awkward point and in some way surprised Miller, jumbling things in that moment and resulting in a bit of a fumble. D.C. couldn’t scramble the ball into the goal, but surely Bob Bradley will have been less than thrilled.

Miller may have been caught between two minds: dribbling the ball to himself in motion, and thus away from pressure, or gathering it immediately. Then again, it seems like he pops the ball up somehow, possibly ruling out a dribbling intention. Whatever it was, he didn’t quite know what he wanted to do. 

This has been a rarer and rarer occurrence for Miller, though, as he has quietly grown into a very solid MLS keeper. He’s also a good dude, as the ESPN+ LAFC documentary showed, so credit to him.

Spencer Richey’s miscommunication

Goalkeepers are usually blamed on plays like this, perhaps unfairly:

On this, though, Richey can reasonably take fault—he shouldn’t venture outside of his box unless he’s sure he can get a foot on the ball. He wasn’t strong enough in calling off Greg Garza, who at one point seemed content to let Richey smash it clear. Once Richey arrived, Garza was in desperation mode and Gianluca Busio was running onto the ball. 

Richey is a young keeper and has been very good in his other MLS starts this season, so he’ll be OK. He has good perspective.

Not a great idea, Adrian Zendejas!

SKC’s MLS debutant ended up in a similar situation as Bono:

As with Bono, Zendejas should not be out that far. In this situation, Roland Lamah was more likely to end up with a breakaway, but Zendejas misjudged the flight of the ball and realized too late that he couldn’t get there first. Battling for a high bouncing ball with an attacking outside the box is never a good idea, and Lamah decidedly won. He was brought down for a clear penalty, which Darren Mattocks converted.

He would have been better served letting his defenders handle that one.

Harrison Hamm is a sportswriter who covers American soccer and MLS for FloFC. He also covers sports for FanSided and The Comeback, and has freelanced for the Washington Post.

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