With Chivas USA near the halfway point for the season, it is time to do an assessment of the roster to this point. We start in the back with the goalkeepers, and Chivas have played two so far this year, Dan Kennedy in the league campaign and Tim Melia in the U.S. Open Cup matches. Since goalkeeper seems to be the main strength for Chivas this season, the assessments are unsurprisingly rosy so far.
Here is Chivas' record so far this season as a point of departure: 16 MLS games (3 U.S. Open Cup matches): 19 points (5-7-4) (3-0-0 in USOC); 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall (Semifinal round in USOC)
Dan Kennedy: It seems likely that Kennedy will be named an MLS All-Star this season, and for good reason. He is the rock of Chivas' team, the absolute first name on the team sheet, and he's continued the excellent form of the 2011 season, when he was one of the best goalkeepers in the league. The good news is that unlike 2011, when his form was largely ignored around the league, he is finally starting to get the attention he deserves.At the moment, Kennedy is third in the league in saves, and he's been in the top five in that category nearly all season. He's also tied for third overall with four shutouts, and among keepers with at least 10 starts he is third in goals against average, with 1.13. He's also fourth among goalkeepers with at least 10 starts in save percentage, at 71 percent. So the stats show that Kennedy is an elite goalkeeper in many of the major categories in this league.
One of the questions entering the season was whether Kennedy would be able to replicate his 2011 form, and he has definitely kept up the pace. He's stayed healthy, which was previously a big question for him as injuries seemed to get in the way of his talent, and he is firmly entrenched as the number one. He also seems to be putting in the work to stay sharp. I think the only flaw that has emerged this season is a tendency for him to drift way off his line when the ball is in the opponent's half. A few teams have tried to catch him by sending long bombs towards Chivas' goal, and he's had to make a couple of very tough saves to keep the ball out of the goal. It hasn't cost him yet, and until it does we can't knock him for it, but it is clear that MLS teams are scouting Kennedy in this tendency and will keep trying to catch him out. It may be the only "easy" way to get a goal on the man, frankly. All in all, Kennedy is playing very well indeed, and Chivas should be happy with the performance he's put in so far this season.
Kennedy's midseason grade: A
Tim Melia: Although he hasn't seen any league minutes this season, Melia has been the club's U.S. Open Cup goalkeeper so far this year, going 3-0-0 in the process on the way to the semifinals. He's only given up two goals in those three matches, and has also played very well. Although there is quite likely a considerable distance between Kennedy and Melia in terms of quality and overall consistency, Melia has shown he is a more than capable of stepping in if necessary during his limited action.
That said, there is a question about the level of opponent Melia has faced, as Chivas have played a USL-PDL team (the Ventura County Fusion), an NASL team (the Carolina RailHawks) and a USL-Pro team (the Charlotte Eagles). These are teams that Chivas were expected to beat, and so perhaps we should take Melia's performances so far with a grain of salt. Fair enough, but I think there are two factors that soften that line a bit. First, all three matches were high-stakes knockout games, and it could be argued were more pressure-packed than normal league games that Kennedy has played in. With the number of MLS sides that lost to lower-league teams in this year's USOC, simply showing up does not equal a win, and Chivas have been one of four MLS sides to progress to the final four this year. The second mitigating factor is that unlike the other surviving MLS teams in the competition, Chivas have not had a blowout win in the USOC, and so Melia has had to perform well in order to help Chivas advance. All of Chivas' wins have been by a single goal in the Open Cup, so Melia has had to be at his best in order to keep Chivas in the games. To this point, it has worked well.
I thought Melia looked somewhat shaky in the win over Carolina, but he only allowed one goal and the Goats got the win. In the next match, against Charlotte, Melia was fantastic, and the tendency to come running off his line and meet an opposing player head on seemed to have been pared back to an appropriate level. I'm not sure if Robin Fraser will stick with him in the big semifinal match against Seattle next week, but I do think it is safe to say that regardless of the goalkeeper, Kennedy or Melia, Chivas are in good hands.
Melia's midseason grade: A-
Patrick McLain: He hasn't seen a minute of action with the first team this year, and unless something big happens, he is unlikely to feature this season.
McLain's midseason grade: Incomplete
What do you think? Leave a comment below!