American Safe Hands!

Look at the American National team and you see the country has come along way in the last two decades. But they have always seemed to produce good high standard goalkeepers and they continue to do so. Question is why are Americans so good between the posts?

Well first off the stigma that being the keeper is the worst position here in the UK has never reached the American kids. They see it as a glory position, you wait a while then produce a wonder save and help get your team a win. Which is of course true. Whereas in Europe and South America it is looked as the position filled by players who cant kick a ball or have poor technique outfield. If your striker isn’t scoring then sometimes your midfielders or defenders can help out with a goal or two, but if a keeper fluffs it then there is no one there to save him. So if they save what looks a certain goal, they are seen as heroes and who doesn’t want to be a hero?

Then you have to look at Americans and their culture and history with sport. They have loved playing ‘soccer’ as kids but then leave to play Baseball, American Football and Basketball. But all these sports are a great teaching tool for goalkeepers as they concentrate on good hand to eye coordination. That is obviously going to transfer well with any kid who plays both and the chances are higher that they can do well out of soccer rather than the other over populated traditional American sports.

Just think in basketball you are always taught to catch the ball at the highest opportunity, meaning you take control of the ball first. The same rule goes for a goalkeeper, using his hands to his advantage in the box. In baseball you have to fully concentrate on the ball flying through the air and you are then diving around to catch the ball, just like a goalie. Then in American Football the quarter back receives the ball looks up and throws it to a player running away from him, ideal training for a goalkeeper when they are distributing the ball to a forward. So its no surprise that American kids look to become goalies when they return to football (soccer), its the position that uses a lot of skills that they have learned playing other popular sports.

Then over the past two decades the top performers for the US national team have been keepers and more and more keepers get the chance to play in Europe. For younger US fans growing up a few years ago players like Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller were the national players who were consistently playing week in and week out in Europe’s top leagues. Outfield players like Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan were not adapting to the European game. Things have changed now with Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley forging good careers abroad.

But the keepers keep on coming, currently we have Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann, David Yelldell, Dominic Cervi and of course Brad is still playing in Europe. Only this week 22 year old Chicago Fire goalie Sean Johnson has been offered a trial at Manchester United, while current US national squad member, 20 year old Bill Hamid, has just had a similar experience at West Bromich Albion.

They say the goalkeeping position is for those that cannot play, but try telling that to those in the States who seem to have mastered the position and turned it into an art form. The less said about all keepers being mad the better… I don’t want world war three!

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