After a two-game stretch that saw the team concede 11 goals, it’s time for the Loons to make some changes.
The goalkeeping hasn’t been the sole sore spot for the squad so far but it’s one of the easiest areas for manager Adrian Heath to experiment with in order to get the team to buckle down defensively. With starting keeper John Alvbage suffering a knee contusion against Atlanta United, the time has never been better to make a change between the posts.
The 34-year-old Swedish keeper has conceded ten goals on twelve shots on target, and while some of those goals weren’t entirely his fault, a 17 percent save percentage is surely grounds for a benching. One of the more frustrating aspects of his play is his insistence on coming off of his line to try and stop the opposing counter-attack. On two separate occasions, once against Portland and once against Atlanta, Alvbage came off of his line only to be rounded by the attacker for an easy goal. He’s also struggled to cut down the angles of impending attacks and fails to make himself big when squaring up to a shot.
Again, I fully admit that the defense has put him in some bad spots. However, it’s obvious that his timing and technique are way off when approaching an attacker one-on-one. It seems as though he always puts himself in no man’s land as he’s not close enough to the player to cut down the angle and force a good shot and he’s not far enough back in his area where he has proper positioning and can react to what’s in front of him.
I’ve attached a few gifs below to further illustrate my points.
This was Atlanta’s first goal of the night. As you can see it was a one-on-one scenario but Alvbage put himself in no man’s land. He wasn’t close enough to stop the shot at the source and he wasn’t far back enough where he was going to be able to make a reaction save.
This was Atlanta’s second goal of the night. Alvbage comes off his line a bit but doesn’t cut down the angle and doesn’t make himself big as Miguel Almiron slots it near post. MLS goalkeepers cannot be beaten near post like this.
This one is just painful to watch. If you’re going to try and challenge a player one-on-one, you can’t just slide at him and pray you get a piece of the ball. Josef Martinez calmly touches the ball into space and taps it into the open net, reminiscent of Adi’s first goal in the season opener.
Alright, we get it, Alvbage hasn’t been great. Where does that leave us?
Earlier this season Minnesota United were able to acquire veteran goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth from the Revolution via trade. Shuttleworth might just be the answer to the Loons goalkeeping woes as he’s been in the league for eight years and has started between the sticks a whopping 124 times. The New York native also was in net for all 480 minutes of the Revolution’s playoff run which culminated in an extra time loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup.
Since coming onto the scene as the starter for New England back in 2013, Shuttleworth has posted three seasons with more than eight shutouts and finished 8th in the league in total saves back in 2014. He has a save percentage of 63.4 percent since becoming a starter and has allowed an average of 1.4 goals per game. Both of his numbers in these statistical categories represent a huge step up from John Alvbage’s 17 percent save percentage and 5 goals allowed average, albeit Alvbage has played less than 180 minutes in MLS.
Another reason why inserting Shuttleworth into the starting lineup for the next game makes sense are his career numbers against Colorado. In the three times that he’s played the Rapids, the 29-year-old has posted two shutouts and an 83 percent save percentage.
The former Revolution backstop did struggle in his 20 starts last season once teams keyed in on the fact that he struggles to get low to make saves. He sustained a back injury in 2016 that kept him sidelined for a bit but he had already lost the starting gig to Brad Knighton. Shuttleworth’s cameo appearance on Sunday was just his second appearance in a game since mid-August.
With Alvbage out for 1-3 weeks, it appears as though Shuttleworth is pretty much guaranteed to make the next two or three starts. Even if the Swede was healthy, I would still be advocating for a change to Shuttleworth to try and shake things up. If Shuttleworth is able to string together a few solid performances, the Loons should continue to roll with him for the foreseeable future. The former Revolution stopper has a good enough pedigree and skill set to be given the opportunity to prove himself for this expansion club.