When the LA Galaxy signed Jonathan Bond on a free transfer from West Bromwich Albion, it was seen as a low-cost move for a team that has been unable to solidify the goalie position since the days of Donovan Ricketts.
Seven games into the MLS season, Bond has been a revelation for the Galaxy, establishing himself as the starter since opening week, and leading the league in saves for a Galaxy team that sits in third place in the Western Conference.
The quick acclimation for Bond has been a surprising development for the Galaxy, but after biding his time largely as backup for numerous clubs across the English soccer pyramid, locking down a starting goalkeeper spot has been a long time coming.
“Truthfully I was ready to come in and play first-team football even back in England,” Bond told SBI. “The last few years, I’ve felt in the position I’m in now but I think physically I had a few issues that were holding me back and still the last couple years have been frustrating because I know I got the ability and I knew I just needed to play regularly at a good level.”
On the surface, the Galaxy targeting a backup goalkeeper in England with seven cup appearances in the last three seasons made little sense due to roster constraints on international players. Unbeknown to most, Bond’s mother was born in Seattle, which helped Bond secure an American passport, meaning he does not occupy an international roster spot.
“I think the American passport gave me the opportunity to come here,” Bond said. “And there was a point where, maybe I would have gone somewhere else [in MLS], but the move I wanted was obviously the Galaxy.”
Bond stopped short of confirming which MLS teams were close to acquiring his services though he told SBI a move to the English Championship was an option as well.
“I’ve gone from backup to number one, being really wanted and then a backup again,” Bond said. “I have been on both sides of it so to have a team like the Galaxy want me badly, that was a huge attraction.”
As for his American roots, Bond has represented England and Wales at youth levels, but remains eligible for the U.S. Men’s National team, should there be interest.
“At the moment it’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind,” Bond said. “I’m just kind of playing, and seeing what happens there.
“If the (United States) is really interested to do something then we can approach that when it comes to it,” Bond said. “But yes, it would be a difficult one because I feel just as English as I do American so that would be a difficult one, but I’m open to it.”
The competition at the USMNT goalkeeper position features European-based Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath, as well as MLS-based Matt Turner, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid to name a few, but if Bond can continue to play at the level he has shown early on with the Galaxy, a call from Gregg Berhalter might not be out of the question.
At 28, Bond is still at a relatively early stage in his career as a goalkeeper, but his road to a successful start in MLS was a long one.
Bond came up through the Watford youth academy, seldom featuring for Hornets and enduring four loan spells before moving to Reading in 2015.
At Reading, Bond made 14 appearances in the Championship, though once again he was unable to establish himself as a starter and was sent on subsequent loan spells in League One before then joining West Bromwich Albion on a free-transfer in a reserve role in 2018.
“The competition is very high,” Bond said. “There’s a lot of pressure there on the managers and the risk in their minds and changing goalkeepers is not something that most managers like to do very often.”
“That’s difficult especially when you’re a goalkeeper and then when you feel ready and you just need something to break for you or a manager to give you that chance and it didn’t happen,” said Bond.
Finally getting his chance with the Galaxy, just about everything has gone right for Bond in his first extended run as a starter.
The Galaxy sit in third place in the West as they prepare to resume play following the international break, with victories over rivals LAFC and the San Jose Earthquakes. Bond was especially impressive against the Earthquakes, making 12 saves in the 1-0 victory, earning a place on SBI’s MLS Best XI for his performance.
The name is Bond… Jonathan Bond.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 30, 2021
Bond credits his relationship with goalkeeper coach and former Galaxy standout Kevin Hartman for his methodical approach to the game, and smooth adaptation to MLS.
The international break came just as the Galaxy were on a good run, but the two weeks off have afforded them time to continue implementing Vanney’s system.
Vanney is in his first season as Galaxy head coach after five seasons with Toronto FC, and his arrival, along with the strong performances by players like Bond and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, have been key to helping the Galaxy look like a playoff contender again after a disappointing 2020 season.
“It’s just about making sure we find who we are,” Bond told SBI. “We obviously are looking for our philosophy, our identity and we need to nail that down, nail down the playoffs place and then once you’re in there, anything can happen.”