With Tyler Miller out for the season due to hip surgery Minnesota United needed to go with a different starting goalkeeper for the rest of 2020. Those two options were Greg Ranjitsingh, whom was signed after the 2019 MLS Waiver Draft, and the young Dayne St. Clair, who was recalled from San Antonio FC after Miller went out for the season.
For better or worse Ranjitsingh has gotten the call in each of the three matches the Loons have played so far since returning from Orlando. Last time when I broke down whether or not the Loons would be ok with Miller I broke down the hard numbers, so let’s take a look at that.
The Hard Numbers
First let’s compare Greg Ranjitsingh’s numbers to MNUFC’s last two starting goalkeepers, Vito Mannone and Tyler Miller. So to recap those stats:
In 2019 Mannone made a total of 133 saves on 181 shots across 37 matches (MLS Regular Season plus MLS Cup Playoffs) with a GAA of 1.285 and a SV% of 73.4%. During Miller’s 8 starts (First two MLS matches plus the entire MLS Is Back Tournament) he has given up 11 goals through 8 matches with a GAA of 1.375 on the season with 21 saves on 32 shots for a SV% of 65.6%. So in 2019 vs Miller’s 2020 the GAA is higher, SV% is lower, but the shots on target per match are lower. However in 2019 MNUFC allowed 1 goal for every 3.77 shots on target in 2020 with Miller in net that number is much lower at one goal for every 2.91 shots on target. While all the numbers can’t be put on the goalkeeper, it does show that the overall defensive capabilities of the team are down.
With Ranjitsingh in net it’s yet another story. Currently he has played 3 full matches for 270 minutes with 15 saves on 23 shots on target. With those stats it shows that Greg’s GAA is 2.67, which is much MUCH higher than both Miller and Mannone. His save percentage 65.2%, which while again lower than Vito’s, is actually very close to the Tyler Miller’s. So in that respect the SV% is not bad in comparison but still could be much better; as should Miller’s. Lastly we can also determine how many shots it takes for the opposition to score on average. Ranjitsingh’s number (which is more than slightly helped by his performance against Houston) is the opposition scoring 1 goal for every 2.875 shots. Again way down from Mannone but just slightly down from Miller in 2020.
As a disclaimer, SV% is not a massive indicator of ability or nearly as useful in soccer as it is in say hockey. Because of the large size of the net, wide variety in types of shots (which you’ll see later in the positioning), it can be considered largely un-useful. However I have included it here as it is one of the more basic analytical stats.
So to slightly tackle the xGA (Expected Goals Against) vs GA stat, which is a better indicator of saving ability. All three players have given up more than their xGA stat. With Vito giving up 1.49 more than expected in 2019, that was through 34 matches. Miller has given up 1.05 more while Ranjitsingh has given up 2.95 more than expected through just three games. On a per game basis Ranjitsingh is giving up an average of almost a full extra goal per match, which is, well not good. Those xGA stats are curtsey of American Soccer Analysis.
With distribution we won’t compare it to either Vito or Tyler’s as they all play the ball differently. And while that inherently is not a bad thing it does change how MNUFC starts a counter attack up the field.
Above are the distribution charts from the three starts Greg Ranjitsingh has had this season. One key thing you can see from just a quick glance is he tends to take shorter passes. In fact according to fbref.com 75.7% of his passes (not including goal kicks) are under 40 yards, with his average pass length being 31.1 yards. Along with those stats are his completion percentage, which you can also see is much worse as the distance goes up. Football Reference has his completion % at 97.2% (35/36) for passes under 25 yards, while his completions of over 25 yards drops to 58.6% (34/58).
Now the good thing with that is Ranjitsingh has for the most part kept most of his kicks on the shorter end and the team has worked with that. As for example against FC Dallas he completed none of his longer passes and was 6/13 with passes over 25 yards. With MNUFC allowing Ranjitsingh to keep his range fairly close they’ve contributed to an overall pass completion of 73.4%.
Lastly lets look at his positioning. There’s three plays here, two goals and one save. One good, one ok, and one that just looks bad to ugly. Then we’ll also look at the own goal from Sporting Kansas City.
First is Greg’s first save against Sporting KC. The ball starts in the middle of the pitch with Ranjitsingh squared up to the SKC player while near the top of the six. The ball is sent to the right side to Roger Espinoza but Ranjitsingh drops back closer to the goal, staying near the center but also has his body weight shifted towards the near post slightly. Espinoza sends a bouncing cross to the left and now Greg comes towards the top of the six and shifts to cover the near post on his right side. The ball is then bounced to Alan Pulido, who has a clear line of sight towards the goal with no defenders in front of him. Pulido takes the open shot, but in that time that he gathered the ball Ranjitsingh took just one or two steps to the side putting him in perfect position to stop the shot. Not an exciting save but he makes a good one that he should have there.
Now let’s take a look at the goal allowed by Minnesota just before this save. The play starts from the back of the field, in the middle third but behind the midfield line. So we’ll start covering it when the GK gets into view. Once Greg gets into view it’s fairly hard to check his earlier positioning. But we can also see that based on his save attempt he was lined up to face a shot from Roger Espinoza, who was running in for the attempt. What ended up happening is Gadi Kinda’s through ball bounced past Espinoza and into the open left hand side of the net. Due to the nature of the play, making a save and good positioning was a choice between covering Espinoza’s run or Kinda’s through ball. Once Ranjitsingh was committed to one the other would be nearly impossible to cover due to the vastly different angles.
After the match Adrian Heath probably said it best about the goal:
“It’s one of them that you always talk about when you’re putting it in, swinging in, make sure that they stay in between the post, because that, that can happen. That’s one of them things when people look as though they’re gonna go for the ball and nobody touches it and it ends up bobbling in on the back post. I’ll have to have another look at it. It looked soft from our position on the bench. I don’t think we had enough pressure on the ball. I’ll have to have another look at it.”
Against FC Dallas last Saturday night, Minnesota allowed two goals early in the first half and a late one in stoppage time from the spot. We’ll take a look at FC Dallas’ second goal first. Fabrice-Jean Picault starts the play with the ball on the nearside. The distance is far enough out that Ranjitsingh is in a good position, near the middle of the six, with weight distribution roughly even. This allows him to easily shuffle back and then to the right after Picault sends the cross into the box.
At this point things start to fall apart, Ricardo Pepi has the ball near the far side of the 18 yard box and Ranjitsingh covers the nearside post. The problem with this since he’s covering the nearside post it leaves most of the goal open. Due to Pepi’s angle the ball would more than likely go either narrow and miss the goal or wider than Ranjitsingh’s coverage area and into the goal. Pepi instead sends the ball in towards the middle to Jesús Ferreira. Ferreira then takes a few steps on a dribble drawing Ranjitsingh towards him leaving most of the net unable to be protected. Because of the poor positioning Jesús Ferreira is easily able to beat him wide from the top of the six and score.
Lastly let’s look at the own goal MNUFC allowed/caused back against Sporting Kansas City and see where Greg was on that play. The play started with a bad pass from Kevin Molino being intercepted by Gadi Kinda. Kinda then broke out into the open before covered by two defenders, when that happened he sent a pass to his left to Johnny Russell. At this point Greg Ranjitsingh starts to square up with Russell, covering the goal and the most obvious point of attack. Russell then takes the ball and dribbles in towards the goal rather than taking an immediate shot, and as Russell approaches the end line Ranjitsingh stays with him covering the near post.
The MNUFC defenders are making sure to stay near each of SKC’s three attackers to keep them covered. Russell is now in deep enough his options are a poor shot from a narrow angle, with not a great chance to score or to send a cross. At this point if Russell sends the cross its up to Michael Boxall to prevent the goal. Russell does exactly that and Boxall does get his foot on the cross, but inadvertently puts it in his own net. For a play starting with a bad pass and wide open breakaway, Ranjitsingh actually did very well for what he needed too and could do.
At the end of the day Greg Ranjitsingh is not a bad goalkeeper. And yes I am saying this for a guy who’s given up 8 goals in three games. But a lot of that is down to the defense, and Adrian Heath has said as much.
“It’s always difficult for a keeper, even when you’re conceding goals. You know, maybe there’s a couple out of the eight, maybe Greg [Ranjitsingh] would have thought he could do better with. But, trust me, when people are having free shots from 7, 8-yards out, invariably, you can’t keep blaming the goalkeeper.”
Greg has done what he can to step into the role of a starter for Minnesota United. He’s stepping into a role that MNUFC has the 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in. It’s not an easy task and for a guy who has known he’s the backup it can’t be easy either.
“I think the mindset that I go in with, although obviously I know Tyler [Miller] is number one and I’m the backup, but I think I train everyday like I’m the number one. I push Tyler. I think Tyler also knows that all the goalkeepers in this union, especially me, we all want to play and I think that’s good – it’s a healthy competition, it pushes all of us. And obviously I knew for a while now that Tyler was thinking about getting the surgery, and that I would have to step up and fill that role. So, you know, I’ve been preparing for a long time and I’ve been training well. I know that my teammates and staff have full confidence in me and that gives me a lot of confidence moving forward in myself. I felt like I was ready for it and looking to build off it.”
Greg Ranjitsingh is a decent solid goalkeeper, and is an ok replacement for Tyler Miller at this time. Dayne St. Clair isn’t ready to be an MLS starter and Fred Emmings is too young. And while I don’t see Greg as a long term starter, he’s filling a role we absolutely need a solid player in. Now if only he could get some help defensively and that the offense could start producing; we may see a solid threatening MNUFC squad again.