Dan Kennedy was my selection for Chivas USA's Most Valuable Player in 2011, and while a few players were in the mix, I thought it was a no-brainer. He began playing in the third match of the season, after fully recovering from injury, and never relinquished the goalkeeper's position for the rest of the year. Although in the past he was a guy with a lot of potential and fears about his durability, he fully came good this year.
Playing 32 league matches (all starts), Kennedy had nine shutouts (5th overall - all 'keepers ahead of him made the playoffs in 2011), 100 saves (5th overall), and two penalty kick saves (tied for 2nd overall). His goals against average was 1.22, decent but tied for ninth among goalkeepers with at least 10 appearances. He was seventh in save percentage (70%) among keepers with at least 10 appearances. Why do I love recounting Kennedy's statistics so much? They demonstrate his quality in a league filled with quality goalkeepers.The kicker from Kennedy's impressive season was the quality of the elite goalkeepers in the league in 2011. Nick Rimando, Kasey Keller, Kevin Hartman, Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders, Faryd Mondragon, and Jimmy Nielsen all played for playoff teams. They are good goalkeepers, no doubt about it, but they had stronger defenses than Kennedy had with Chivas. Kennedy was in a slightly better position than Toronto FC's goalkeepers in 2011, Stefan Frei and Milos Kocic, who were recognized as good goalkeepers but had to deal with a defense that was absolutely atrocious, and so they shipped goals by the bucketload.
Think about this: despite the quality of goalkeepers in the league, consider Kennedy's value against a replacement-level MLS goalkeeper. Chivas finished 15th overall on the regular season, with a -2 goal difference. The bottom-dweller teams, the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps, finished eight points behind Chivas. Was Kennedy good for eight points on the season? If he wasn't, he was damn close. Seriously, look through the archives for this site, of the match reports and how many times I credited Kennedy with preserving a win or draw, or keeping Chivas in a hopeless match. Although the Goats had an ultimately disappointing season, Kennedy played about as well as one could expect. He's a player who looks to have locked up the keeper position for Chivas for years to come, and that's something that makes for a strong start to a spine for a team looking to build a sustained winning tradition.
In 2011, Kennedy also represented a true bargain, as he made $62,496. He recently signed a new deal, and while salary figures will not come out until the 2012 season is underway, I assume he got a substantial pay raise. It will be worth every penny if he can continue the form that he had in 2011. I have touted him as a national team-caliber goalkeeper, and while it unfortunately looks like he won't get a sniff of the USMNT any time soon, he's the only player on Chivas USA that I would endorse until I'm blue in the face. I think that the reputation that Chivas has around the league has taken much of the deserved attention and plaudits away from Kennedy. Let's hope he can continue his form, and that the rest of the squad can play at a higher level in 2012 so that the culture and reputation surrounding Chivas changes for the better.
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