Photo by ISIphotos.com
The 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award was far from an easy one to vote for, with the only clear aspect of the voting being that it should probably go to a keeper from the Western Conference.
Kasey Keller looked like he might run away with the award early in the season, but neither he or the Sounders could keep up that early pace. Los Angeles Galaxy newcomer Donovan Ricketts put together a very strong first season in MLS, playing a key role in the Galaxy's rise to the top of the West. As impressive as both those goalkeepers were, SBI's pick for 2009 MLS goalkeeper of the year is Zach Thornton.
Coming into the 2009 season there was no bigger question mark surrounding Chivas USA than the goalkeeping position, which made the team's decision not to draft Stefan Frei a puzzling one. Perhaps Preki and Co. were already aware that they have a veteran goalkeeper poised to have the type of season few could have expected.
Thornton didn't just play well, he made jaw-dropping saves on a regular basis. He kept Chivas USA in matches it would have otherwise lost with ease. Fans in Seattle won't soon forget the performances he delivered against the Sounders and opponents throughout the West had to be left wondering how Thornton spent the 2008 season on the bench with New York.
Thornton didn't just rebound in his first season as a starter since 2008, he posted arguably the best season of his career. He notched a career-best 0.87 goals-against average and a career-high 12 shutouts (leading the league in both categories), both marks considerably better than the 1.17 GAA and eight shutouts he notched on his way to winning 1998 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors. He did all that despite battling a quad injury in the second half of the season.
All that is why Thornton is SBI's choice for 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.