LA Galaxy starting goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini picked up his seventh clean sheet of the 2013 MLS campaign in a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas on July 7. Yet, something is badly wrong with Cudicini this season.
On the face of it, things don't seem that bad. Cudicini is tied for second in MLS in shutouts behind leaders Bobby Shuttleworth of the New England Revolution and former Galaxy keeper and current Portland Timbers man Donovan Ricketts. Shuttleworth and Ricketts have eight clean sheets this season. Cudicini's goals against average of 1.12 ranks seventh among starting goalkeepers in MLS. So what's the big deal?
Even after another shutout, Cudicini still ranks dead last among starters in save percentage at 59.6 percent. In order to see how poor the position is being played for LA this season, let's start with the average MLS keeper and the average starting MLS keeper.
|Category||Carlo Cudicini||Average Keeper||Average Starting Keeper|
|Shots Faced per 90 Minutes||3.06||4.34||4.31|
|Saves per 90 Minutes||1.82||3.02||3.01|
|Goals Against Average||1.12||1.27||1.24|
While Cudicini has advantages over the averages in four of the seven categories in the chart, it is also clear that he faces far fewer shots than his colleagues and needs to come up with fewer saves to get a result. In his seven clean sheets this season, Cudicini has made an average of 1.86 saves as compared to 1.80 saves in his other matches. Though Cudcini is just one clean sheet behind the league leaders, he does not compare to Shuttleworth (3.75 saves per shutout) and Ricketts (3.25 saves per shutout) in clean sheet performances. Cudicini's best number of saves in a clean sheet was a four-save effort against the Portland Timbers on June 19. Ricketts has had three four or more save shutouts in 2013 with a high of seven saves while blanking FC Dallas on June 15. Shuttleworth also has three four or more save clean sheets this season with an amazing nine-save clean sheet against the Timbers on May 2.
Cudicini's save percentage is where the disparity in his play with the rest of MLS begins to really show. Let's now adjust performances by the average goalkeepers and the league-leader in GAA, Nick Rimando, using Cudicini's dismal save percentage.
|Category||Average Keeper||Average Starting Keeper||Nick Rimando|
|Shots Faced per 90 Minutes||4.34||4.31||3.88|
|Saves per 90 Minutes||2.59||2.51||2.31|
|Goals Against Average||1.75||1.80||1.57|
In Rimando's case, he'd see his sterling GAA of 0.82 skyrocket to 1.57. Real Salt Lake would have to keep scoring at their current rate of 1.53 goals per match to hope to have a record similar to that of the Philadelphia Union (7-6-6) which would leave RSL out of a current playoff position in the Western Conference.
Whether one believes Cudicini's best soccer is behind him based on this season, the question has to be asked if he is bored. When looking at his best statistical seasons in the English Premier League with Chelsea, Cudicini was having to make at least double the saves he is making for the Galaxy. It is a risky proposition to ask the defense to allow more shots through to the keeper to test this theory, but something has to change.
No MLS team has ever won the MLS Cup with a starting goalkeeper with a sub 61 percent regular season save percentage--even in that case, there was technicality. Jeff Causey started 18 matches for the 1996 D.C United MLS Cup winning side compared to 14 starts for Mark Simpson (67 percent save percentage). Causey sat on the bench while Simpson was in net during the MLS Playoffs. Ten MLS Cup winners have had starting goalies with save percentages of 70+ and 14 have enjoyed save percentages of 68+.