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SBI MLS Goalkeeper of the Year: Jimmy Nielsen

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While other goalkeepers may have faced more shots, and none played behind as steady a defense as Sporting Kansas City’s, Jimmy Nielsen’s season was a special one because the Danish goalkeeper always seemed to make the important save when his team needed it the most.

Nielsen played every minute of the season for Sporting KC, compiling a league-leading 15 shutouts, which doubled his total from 2011. Nielsen posted a 0.79 goals-against average, one of the best totals in MLS history and also proved instrumental in helping Sporting KC win the U.S. Open Cup in penalty kicks.

While the argument can certainly be made that Nielsen didn’t face as many shots, or as much attacking pressure as other goalkeepers, there is no denying that when the time came to make vital saves, particularly in tight matches for a Sporting Team that didn’t always generate goals in bunches, Nielsen almost always made the important save.

That is why Nielsen is the pick for SBI MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Here is a closer look at the other contenders for the honor:


Posted the best goals-against average in the league, and was steady when healthy, but he missed a third of the season and also lost out to Nielsen in the U.S. Open Cup Final. That didn’t stop him from still being considered a very close second for the award.


The Columbus Crew didn’t make the playoffs, but the reason they were still alive until the final weeks was the outstanding work of Andy Gruenebaum, who was the best goalkeeper in the league through the first half of the season.


One of the most consistent and reliable goalkeepers in the league, Hall’s poise and ability to avoid mistakes made him the stabilizing force on a Dynamo side that struggled to maintain a consistently high level. He would have played every game of the season if he hadn’t been rested in the regular season finale, and his clutch saves were a major reason the Dynamo didn’t miss the playoffs.


What did you think of this year’s crop of goalkeepers? Who impressed you the most in net in 2012?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. You got to give KC props for finding him. I think the US and it’s clubs has a knack of finding, training and fielding great goalkeepers. If we find them and identify them here at the collegiate and youth ranks, it makes sense that we can find and identify them overseas. You almost have to recruit from the lower divisions in Europe. Anything in the first tier of most leagues and you are priced out, unless you want get a DP or a near-retiree.

  2. Okay, I usually agree with these sorts of picks but this is ridiculous.

    Jimmy Nielsen isn’t even a top ten goalkeeper in this league. He has a good defense. Congratulations.

    Would anyone select him in the top five in a goalkeeper draft for their own team? Only crazy people and SKC fanboys.

    1. Michael Gspurning
    2. Andy Gruenebaum
    3. Dan Kennedy
    4. Tally Hall
    5. Nick Rimando

    Those five a locks. No doubters.
    I would take Bill Hamid over Nielsen… even NOT taking into account their age, contracts, and upside.

    Only after all that does it even become a debate, with Nielsen and guys like Sean Johnson, Joe Cannon, etc.

    But congrats to Jimmy Nielsen for being on such a good defensive team. Next let’s hand out a Cy Young award to the pitcher with the most wins…

      • I hate the Sounders… you really think I’m a Sounders fan just because I think Michael Gspurning is one of half a dozen goalkeepers who are clearly superior to Jimmy Nielsen?

        I am being objective, you on the other hand appear to be a KC fanboy.

      • Nielsen makes the big saves when they are needed, he took home 6 MLS Save of the Week Awards, and he leads/ organizes the most effective defense in the league. Without him SKC wouldn’t have as solid of a defense. So, while you attribute his success to great defense you make the argument for him because organizing the defense is one of the goalkeepers jobs.

  3. Gruenebaum was incredible this year! He get’s my vote. Too bad he didn’t have a decent defense in front to him to make his stats better. Nielsen is a great keeper, but I think you could have found a better picture of him….YIKES!

  4. I agree with the selection, although I’d say Seattle almost had more to do with Kansas City winning that U.S. Open Cup final on penalties than Nielsen did. Eddie Johnson almost sent that last PK into the parking lot outside Livestrong Sporting Park.

    Nielsen’s great in that he rarely lets in the soft goal you see beat a lot of MLS keepers tend to allow more regularly (I’m looking at you, Sean Johnson). Aside from that Columbus equalizer a few weeks ago, I can’t think of any other softies that Nielsen has given up this season. To score on these guys, you’ve got to beat a solid defensive line and then smoke one past Nielsen. That’s what’s made them so tough.

  5. Can’t argue with this at all. I think Gspurning was the best GK in MLS this year, but Nielsen was almost as good, and played every minute. . . . Very richly deserved.

  6. Gspurning is good but I think Nielsen was far and away the best goalkeeper this year. Excellent choice.

    As for the argument that he didn’t face as many shots or have to deal with as much pressure as other goalkeepers, a big reason why KC’s defense is so good is because of Nielsen’s excellent organization.

    • +1. Also, as Ives points out, Gsp missed 1/3 of the season, so he didn’t do it over the as large (and therefore impressive) a sample size as Jimmy. Won’t be long before we hear a ruckus from the Scoundrel trolls though – they never let the facts get in the way of homerism.

    • THIS. Most people assume that a keeper is only as good as the shots he stops. Few people realize the best keepers are organizing their defense in such a way that the shots never get generated.

      • *Danish 1st Division is the second tier, behind the Danish Superliga.

        When Jimmy started there, they were in the 1st Division, and were promoted at the end of the season to the Superliga, and then relegated right back down the season after. So 1/2 year in second tier, full year in first tier, full year in second tier.

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