Despite the bizarre exit by Jaime Penedo, the Galaxy have staked their claim on being the new Philadelphia Union with goalkeepers. The Panamanian goalkeeper was originally brought in on a year and a half contract, implying that the gloves would be handed off to a younger goalkeeper. We have now hit that point where the Galaxy aren’t looking long term with Penedo and, instead, are eying one of their many young goalkeepers to eventually take over.
Brian Rowe is the expected starter for the moment but there’s a ton of young talent in the Galaxy organization: Clément Diop (21), Nick Shackelford (24), Trey Mitchell (pool keeper training in LA, 24), Andrew Wolverton (22), Bennett Sneddon (18), and Eric Lopez (16). Then there’s the possibility of Joshua McNeely (UC Santa Barbara, 21), Juan Cervantes (UCLA, 21), Alex Padilla (UCLA, 22), and Abraham Romero (academy, 17) all signing homegrown contracts down the line. And don’t forget that Brian Perk (26) should be back next year after recovering from surgery. So it’s safe to say LA is set in the goalkeeping department for the next two decades or so.
Somewhat unfortunately for Galaxy, this isn’t a season they can tank to allow youngsters to gain ample playing time. Already we’ve seen Arena bring in and start veteran Donovan Ricketts after Brian Rowe had a rough outing against the Dynamo late last month.
Ideally, this is Rowe’s time to step into the starting role, but it hasn’t been that clean of a transition. For someone who has followed Rowe for some time now, it’s been a little frustrating watching a goalkeeper with clear talent not be able to string together a good stretch with a club. Rowe should be able to handle the job by now. So what’s holding him back?
He’s making mistakes too often.
In the game against Houston, we see his reactions are too far behind a simple shot from distance.
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This is a common shot in MLS and one a starter has to handle. Later in the game (2:15 in video) he makes a solid collection on a corner then foolishly rolls it out to a player in traffic, which almost results in another goal.
Rowe turns 27 in November and even though people are quick to point to how long goalkeepers play for, typically a goalkeeper has reached close to his potential at 27. While there technically is some upside to Rowe, he is essentially the goalkeeper he will be. He will clean up his play a little bit, but most likely, this is close to the final product.
Still, he’s more good than bad.
Rowe’s errors aren’t necessarily the worst if we’re considering what kind of goalkeeper he will be down the line. It’s not like he’s scoring horrific own goals with his own face and he’s not Carlo Cudicini either, much to the relief of Galaxy fans everywhere. If it’s just minor mistakes here and there, it would seem that Rowe isn’t that far off from being a regular starter in MLS. In the same game against Houston, he makes a save in almost the exact same situation as the previous goal.
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Even right now, some teams in MLS would really benefit with Rowe in goal over their current starter. Once he gets into a good rhythm, he should be good to go.
He has the tools. Now can he put it together?
He’s quick enough. He’s strong enough. He has the mind and experience for the game. Now can he play consistently? Rowe reminds me very much of Joe Bendik in Toronto: someone who has everything to succeed but the lapses in play run the risk of going back to the bench. If he gets his timing down and stays alert, LA can look to return to the MLS Cup Final this year. However if Rowe can’t figure it out, the Galaxy may bottom out first round with essentially a backup in goal instead of who should be there.