I, like most Galaxy die-hards, am a big Jaime Penedo fan. Reliable in front of goal and fearless around the box, the athletic keeper is one of the top shot stoppers in MLS.
In fact, you might say his clutch saves and cat-like reflexes have a lot in common with another former LA keeper, Galaxy legend Kevin Hartman.
However, if there's one thing El Gato possessed that Penedo is lacking from his game, it's technique. In that sense, how fitting is it for Jaime that goalkeeper coach Matt Reis, who like Kevin Hartman is a former student of Zak Abdel, has been hired to teach that same technique to the LA netminder.
With Jaime, [we work on] a lot of little technical things because he hasn't had a lot of work with his technique throughout his career," Reis said.
"...I think Jaime has great reactions, he's got a great feel for the game, and he makes big saves. So if we can get his little technical stuff a little better, it will only help him in the long run."
So what exactly is Reis talking about? Let's take a look at the Galaxy - FCD highlights.
Here in the 31st minute, Michel swings in a dangerous cross that Walter Zimmerman meets with a near post header. Penedo wisely anticipates the flick and backpedals to the goal line in time to make the stop, as the rebound sails to the PK circle before Juninho clears the ball.
It's a good save, but Jaime commits a few errors.
As a goalkeeper, with the ball screaming in your direction, you have a split second decision to make. Ideally you want to collect the ball, but if the shot is too difficult to bring in, you have to clear the ball out of danger. To the sides, over the bar, just get it out of there.
You never give up a rebound in the middle of the field, and you never give up a rebound inside your own 18-yard box, both of which Jaime does on the play. You could also say Penedo falls to the ground needlessly when he punches the ball away. This time however, Jaime manages to escape without punishment.
Unfortunately, he doesn't get away with it a second time.
Very late in the match, a FC Dallas throw-in deep in the Galaxy area deflects to Andres Escobar at the top of the 18-yard box, who evades Gyazi Zardes before firing at goal.
Again, Penedo is guilty of making the same mistakes. After giving away a soft rebound that only makes it as far as the PK circle, Jaime is unable to stay on his feet as Fabian Castillo heads into an empty net.
It's one thing to give up a bad rebound, but there's no need for Penedo to go to ground there. If Jaime stays on his feet, Castillo, who is far from a composed finisher, has to at least place his shot.
A major reason why the right technique is so important for goalkeepers is because of these type of scenarios, where there's little margin of error for athleticism or improvisation to make up the difference if you don't execute the play correctly. As good as Penedo's instincts are, for Jaime to improve and round out his game, he must continue to work on refining his technique.
The good news is, he is improving, as Bruce explained after LA beat the Red Bulls recently, a match where Jaime made six saves, including a few crucial one-on-one stops on Bradley Wright-Philips.
"There's some technical issues he needed resolved, some tactical issues, and they've worked real hard to get it better", Arena said. "And he's improving. I think we've seen over the last couple of months that he's an improved goalkeeper."
It was always going to take some time for Penedo to acclimate to a new style of goalkeeping. When you're a 33-year old veteran keeper who's being asked to play the position in a different way, there's going to be an adjusting period.
But even with the occasional lapse in concentration, Penedo is still one of the top goalkeepers in the league. And the best may be yet to come.
Expect to see a sharper, more complete Jaime Penedo in 2015.