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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Jonathan Klinsmann

The numbers and eye test seemed to tell contrasting stories for goalkeeper.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Klinsmann was a surprise signing with the LA Galaxy in the second transfer window in 2020. The goalkeeper had been playing in Europe, first in the reserve ranks at German side Hertha Berlin, before making one appearance for the first team at Swiss side St. Gallen.

Obviously, Klinsmann’s name has been a blessing and a curse as he embarks on a pro career. His father Jurgen was not only one of the most dynamic strikers of his generation, but a U.S. Men’s National Team head coach who had some huge highs and low lows during his tenure. Jonathan isn’t the first son of a legend to try his luck at the pros, too, and not even the first to move back to goalkeeper to forge his own path.

Add to that, the signing was a surprise as well because the Galaxy already had three goalkeepers — incumbent starter David Bingham and backups Justin Vom Steeg and Eric Lopez — on the roster. Did they need another one?

While Klinsmann didn’t start right away, Guillermo Barros Schelotto did put him on the bench immediately and before long, the 23-year-old got four appearances in a row in October to get his feet wet in MLS.

Here’s Klinsmann’s stats with the Galaxy this season:

Jonathan Klinsmann 2020 LA Galaxy Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 4 4 360 17 11 2.75 1 25 61 0 0

The Galaxy went 1-3-0 in the four games Klinsmann played, and fans and pundits who watched LA seemed to think he was an upgrade over Bingham. From the eye test, I think he did look assured, not shaky like new goalkeepers tend to look, with no timidity to his game. And while Bingham wasn’t the source of the Galaxy’s ills, he also did not seem to be anywhere near his peak, either, so I guess Schelotto figured if LA had signed Klinsmann, they may as well give him a look.

Even if Klinsmann looked pretty solid, however, that 1-3-0 record and the numbers weren’t especially kind. 11 goals allowed in four games is eye-popping, and a 61 percent save percentage is not elite.

Of course, there were major problems ahead of him. The Galaxy entered Klinsmann’s run on a five-game losing streak. The defense was never fully upgraded as expected, and they didn’t cover themselves in glory on several of those goals allowed. And Schelotto’s gameplan, such as it was, did not put the team in positions to defend well or attack effectively.

And Schelotto’s firing did not work in Klinsmann’s favor, as interim head coach Dom Kinnear immediately went back to the benched Bingham to see out the season and Klinsmann went back to the bench for the final three games.

So, I think with a small four-game sample size, the jury remains out for Klinsmann. Did he look like he belonged? Yes. Did he show he’s a lockdown starter? Not sure yet about that.

And we’ll see what happens in the offseason. Klinsmann’s contract option was declined, but the Galaxy said when they announced that they were negotiating with him to return. They also said they’re negotiating with Bingham, and with the other two GKs already under contract for 2021, it feels like something has to give. There are MLS teams that keep four goalkeepers on the roster, but it seems unnecessary to bring back both Klinsmann and Bingham. Maybe they’ll bring one back, both back, or neither one back.

And if Klinsmann doesn’t return next season, I have no idea what the future holds for him, honestly. He didn’t break through in Europe, and while he has the size and tools to be effective on paper, I don’t know if an MLS team would jump at the chance to sign him. It’s possible, of course, but if he doesn’t catch on in MLS for 2021, then what?

We’ll see what happens. Again, I think there’s potential with Klinsmann, but someone has to give him a chance to see. Will that be the Galaxy? Time will tell.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.