MLS- Toronto FC

A look at the Top 10 goalkeepers in MLS


Photo by Michael Burns/ISIphotos.com


The impending arrival of Julio Cesar will give Toronto FC a well-known player who could be representing Brazil at the World Cup this summer.

It also means that MLS will have another talented player at a position it is really, really deep at.

There is no denying that goalkeeper is one of the strongest positions in MLS and that will only be further fortified with the addition of Julio Cesar, the Brazilian goalkeeper who is in contention to start for the Seleccao at this summer’s much-anticipated World Cup. He is a grizzled veteran and one that has experience playing in the Premiership, Serie A and on the international stage.

Where the 34-year-old Julio Cesar stacks up against the current crop of MLS goalkeepers is a question that some observers will surely ask given his pedigree and recent struggles to earn playing time at the club level, so SBI is taking stock of the best players currently at the position to help provide an answer.

Here are SBI’s Top 10 goalkeepers in MLS right now:


As sturdy a goalkeeper as there is in MLS, Rimando continues to excel with Real Salt Lake and has shown no signs of slowing down. He can make highlight reel stops, commands his area well, is very technical and is probably the best distributor in the league.


With 77 caps with Brazil to his name and having played for clubs like Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers, Julio Cesar might have the best resume among MLS netminders. The veteran, however, has not played in some time and there are questions as to how much of his form he can regain with Toronto FC.


The Jamaican international has made steady progress in his game in recent years. Not only can Ricketts make eye-opening saves that few can even dream of getting to, but he has also become a much better organizer at the back for the Portland Timbers.


It’s easy to overlook Kennedy given that he plays for struggling Chivas USA, but without him the club would be even worse for wear. Kennedy is one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, but he routinely gives up goals because the team in front of him just is not very good.


A rocky start evolved into a strong first season in MLS for Fernandez. The Peruvian international made stunning saves and cut out much of the bizarre play that marred his game during the early parts of FC Dallas’ 2013 campaign.


An unspectacular but steady presence between the pipes, Hall remains an important part of a Houston Dynamo team that continues to make noise in the playoffs. Not as flashy as some others on this list, but still a well-round goalkeeper who has stayed on the fringes of the U.S. Men’s National Team in recent years.


Irwin is mature beyond his years both on and off the field, so it is hard to imagine that he was playing in USL Pro prior to the 2013 season. He helped guide the Colorado Rapids to a place in the postseason last year with his solid play and did so despite assimilating to the style of MLS and his new teammates.


Capable of making flashy stops, Penedo is both solid and experienced. He demonstrated his skill with the LA Galaxy last season and a full campaign with him in goal should only help the club as they attempt to get back to the MLS Cup.


After an error-plagued first half of the season, Robles bounced back in a big way in 2013. He came up big when his number was called and continued to come through in the clutch in penalty-kick situations, helping the New York Red Bulls pick up their first Supporters’ Shield.


Johnson has continued to hone his game and is only looking better and better with the Chicago Fire. He is as promising a young goalkeeper as there is in MLS and he should only climb in these standings in the coming years.


(Since it was inevitable that some people would ask me for my Top 10, here are my Top 10 MLS goalkeepers heading into the 2014 season- Ives Galarcep)

1. Nick Rimando

2. Julio Cesar

3. Donovan Ricketts

4. Jaime Penedo

5. Tally Hall

6. Clint Irwin

7. Dan Kennedy

8. Raul Fernandez

9. Luis Robles

10. Sean Johnson


What do you think of these rankings? Is there someone who is on there that shouldn’t be? Would you include anyone else?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Rory Miller

    Donovan Ricketts has an amazing ability to make a routine save look like an incredible one.


  • Travis

    Is this list in order from 1-10 or just a list of the top 10? If its in order I would have thought Penedo would have been a bit higher.


  • MMV

    Good list. No Bill Hamid??? I might bump out Hall or Robles for Hamid. Regardless, even without Hamid this list is pretty impressive. I wouldn’t mind having any of these GK’s.


    • Chris

      Hamid has horrible technique and bad decision making. This often leads to really bad mistakes, such as dropping crosses. Lucky for him, he is crazy athletic to make up for some of his weaknesses. Still young though.


    • The Imperative Voice

      This is like Rocky Marciano in Coming to America. People who loved that U23 team from a couple of years ago — the one that didn’t qualify btw — love to forever throw around Hamid and Johnson. They also used to have the circular stamp of approval of getting called into NT camps. So they should be treated like top notch players because one coach for a period treated them as such. Corey Ashe has also been called in, doesn’t mean I think he’s any good. Now that Rimando has shoved them aside for this cycle, the circular element of the argument is gone.

      Hamid allowed 1.5 G/g last season, helping his team to next to last GA. Johnson allowed 1.4. [ Kennedy allowed 1.76, dead last team in GA.] And I still can’t get over how bad they looked in El Salvador.

      Robles was 1.2, Hall was 1.2. I know it’s hard to separate team defense from GK on GA, but statistically that’s a goal’s difference every 3-5 games.

      Keepers mature later but I think the 2012 U23s GKs are living off rep.


      • Chris

        For once I completely agree with what The Imperative Voice has stated.

        I’ve even read where a goalkeeper coach in the MLS thought that Tyler Deric and other backup keepers were technically more sound and probably should have been representing the U23’s during Olympic qualifying.


      • KJ

        Quoting GAA as a way of ranking talent is wrong. As wrong as using ERA and wins to rank pitchers. There is luck and also the team factoring into those. Soccer doesn’t have a good stat to take those factors out, but one day we will look back and laugh that we used these stats to measure GK skill.


      • IndyElevenFan

        It’s really hard to judge Hamid’s performance last year when taking into account the porous defense he had in front of him. Granted, it’s an excuse, but at least it’s a good excuse. I’m looking forward to seeing him this year with the lineup they’ve put together to fix some of those issues.


    • Daniel Miniot

      Hamid might be the most overrated keeper in MLS. He’s not better than Hall or Robles, certainly. He is good, but not quite top 10.


      • Nate Dollars

        funny, i think hamid is currently one of the most underrated (he hasn’t always been).

        he’s consistently been behind some of the worst defenders in the league, and has had to constantly over-deliver because his team can’t score for sh!t. he was one of the only reasons dc made it so far in 2012. he was less than stellar last year, which is why dc was so abysmal.

        no comment on the rankings above, because i think goalkeepers are notoriously hard to compare to each other (too many factors involved).


      • Chris

        The best goalkeepers break down the play vocally and then make the save / cross look easy (Numbers can’t be used to measure that). Keller was an excellent example of this. He managed to put Seattle defenders in the right place even when they lacked talent the first year. I’m not saying Hamid has had good back line, but he’s also not in the clear either.

        Either way, he has a long way to go. And just to add I feel the same way about Sean Johnson.


  • Boyd L.

    Julio Cesar hasn’t played a single game in MLS yet and he’s already ranked?
    When he leaves he’ll be known as an ” American abroad”


    • AcidBurn

      Have any of these keepers played in the World Cup?
      Won the Champions League?
      Won 2 Confederations Cups?
      Won Serie A Keeper of the year 2 times?

      I think he deserves mention on this list, just for his resume alone. I don’t think he will forget how to play goal just because he sets foot in MLS.


      • Chris

        He hasn’t yet appeared in an MLS match. Until he does, he doesn’t belong on the list.


      • beto

        Are Bradley or Defoe in your best MLS XI field players.. I think so.

        Spend big money on international keepers is something that MLS teams really should have to do as someone like Joe Bendik would have been just fine in TFC but cant blame TFC for taking Julius Caeser as he is clearly the highest rated keeper to probably ever play in MLS.

        Or he could be a bust like Rost and Cudiccini…


      • Cylo

        I wouldn’t put Ceaser in my top 10. I gotta see him first. He is no where the same type of player from the WC team


  • Alex H

    What, no Carlo Cudicinni? Oh wait, this isn’t the LAG top ten player moves of 2013…..never mind.


    • Ian

      Carlo Cudicini and Robbie Rogers have cemented their places in Galaxy lore as two huge busts. 2013 was not a fun year to be a Galaxy fan. 2014 has no where to go but up. A full year with Penedo, a few key, exciting additions, and it’s a chance for Rogers to redeem himself – if only he could stay healthy.


    • The Imperative Voice

      I think that’s relative expectations, he had lower G/g than many decent GKs, but Penedo was better. LAG won’t muddle by, they’ll fix it. Personally I think the problem there dated back to Saunders for Ricketts on cap grounds. They have since spent bank on quality keeping twice while Ricketts won GKOTY.


      • bottlcaps

        Technical Directors, or coaches and managers in the MLS also have to have a talent for mathematics as they sometimes have to make decisions based on the salary cap more than a players ability. No one in the Galaxy organization wanted to give up Ricketts, but they needed money and so Saunders, who was quite a bit cheaper than Ricketts,got the call. It looked like a genius move as Saunders. initially did real well, but the pressure eventually got to him. Cudicini was an afterthought and he was picked up only because he agreed to base his salary with any money left under the salary cap. It took the Galaxy too long to sign another DP after Goldenballs left and the spot was eventually give to Omar G. but it was Cudicini that made off with all the money for play that can hardly be classified as “good or outstanding” befitting a former EPL goalie. few tears were shed when Cudicini was let go byt he Galaxy for 2014. Peneda is solid and better yet, won’t be going off the the WC or training camps this summer.


  • xanmia

    when are Hamid and Johnson heading to Europe?

    They’re too good for Scandinavia but not ready for England or Germany. Perhaps Belgium or Holland. but really curious. because Howard/Guzan can keep it up until 2018 but we need these 2 to bring up the rear

    plus Cody Cropper


      • Yevgeniy

        +1. I really don’t see the benefit for goalkeepers to go to Europe just to go to Europe unless it’s more money OR very top level like EPL and top 5 teams from other top leagues


      • JM

        For the record, more money is a pretty good reason to change jobs. Not the best reason, but a pretty good reason. It’s no different with athletes and when they can make a life changing difference in their income by moving to a different country, they should definitely consider it.


      • Gerald

        Totally agree if some company from another country offered me twice as much money I would probably leave


    • Twomilerule

      Rimando is a witch between the pipes! However, I agree just based on limbs lacking length. He just does not physically fill the space in the goal frame and this is his weakness. Rimando’s kryptonite are shots straight on from distance. The same physically liabilities plagued Perkins.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Hall has two flaws, he parries a lot instead of catching, and he tends to spray the ball over the sidelines in distribution when he gets rattled. He’s a good shotstopper who has fixed the distribution issues somewhat. If he ever starts catching the ball……….


    • Wk

      not written by Ives, but probably a slow news day for sure. where are the stats – shots faced, clean sheets, pk’s saved, etc used to evaluate? and 3 GK’s listed that didn’t even start or play well the whole season.

      I would like to hear about the trialists trying to latch on around the league, and other potential signings/rumours.


  • Keith

    What no Kronberg? Mark my words, 8 years in the league, 4 years of Puma tutelage, the best back line in the league and one hell of a backup keeping him sharp. This will be the year for the Kronic.


    • Nick

      Yeah, I don’t blame them for not putting him on. Seems like the national press still isn’t even convinced he is the starter. But I fully expect him to be in the discussion for GK of the year come October.


    • Wk

      Its a good thing too. aside from Bingham none of those other guys in camp have looked very good.


  • Adams

    What a sorry list of goalkeepers. MLS reminds me of the NY Yankees, they sign all the old farts that nobody wants. I truly hope MLS becomes a good league one day.


    • froboy

      ??? What does a keeper list have to do with “old farts” and 34 is not old for a keeper. And you can hardly call anyone in competition for a starting job for Brasil past his time. Also if I am representing MLS I would be thrilled to be compared with the Yanks.


    • Nick

      if you don’t follow the league and aren’t familiar with these players, you probably shouldn’t just talk out of your @ss.


  • Adam M.

    To rank Rimando ahead of Julio Cesar, you’d have to believe that Nick would start for Brasil over Julio Cesar based on quality. That is ludicrous–and Rimando is a fine keeper, dont get me wrong. Julio Cesar hasn’t been playing because of money and issues with his club, not form. They don’t even belong in the same list. Did anyone watch the Confed Cup? How many MLS players, at any position, have been first choice starters for an upcoming World Cup contender?


    • wantaway

      I couldn’t agree with this comment more. I’m of the opinion that Cesar might be the most in-form “star” MLS has ever seen. Last season with QPR, he was making saves that only a handful of GKs on the planet can make. All respect to Rimando, but I don’t know how you put him above JC.


    • ben

      I disagree. Look at Madrid. Del Bosque has not called up Diego Lopes even though he has played every minute in goal this year, yet Casillas will be starting for Spain come June. And I don’t think Robert Green would start for Brazil over Julio Cesar, but he plays over him at QPR. Club and national team situations do not translate to one another.


  • Bean

    I’d take Julio Cesar over Rimando 8/10 times.

    I’d take Hall over Kennedy any day.

    The Jamaican is a solid keeper.


  • MYoungsman

    Hanneman is better than half the guys on this list. Apart from Julio Cesar, he’s played at a higher level than all the rest.
    Robles is one of the worst GK’s in the league.
    Irwin has only played one year
    Ricketts is old and while solid is nowhere near a top class GK anymore
    Weak list….


    • Quit whining about soccer in the US

      As a Sounder, I love him too, I will never forget the championship he helped win.

      But he is getting old…that was back in ’95.

      IF you didn’t see the 90th minute blunder against the Timbers on Saturday look it up. Anyone can make one mistake I guess, but I would have been upset at my u-11 team goalie for sure.


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  • Greg

    Per usual, Ives favors the fancy saves vs. consistency. Jon Busch is among league leaders every year, but cannot even crack the top 10. Pathetic choices Ives. You continually show your utter lack of knowledge of the goalkeeping position.


  • ben

    I would argue that Joe Bendik should be on this list. Look at how bad TFC were and look at how Bendik was the reason they weren’t blown out when they managed a draw or a one-goal loss. I would take him over Raul Fernandez and Sean Johnson.


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