There was a pretty interesting report out on Monday from MLSsoccer.com, with Sam Stejskal reporting that the San Jose Earthquakes have benched starting goalkeeper David Bingham, on the last year of his contract, and are likely to either trade him in the offseason or let him move abroad.
I was pretty surprised by this entire turn of events. Bingham is 27, and was in his third season as a starter in San Jose. And while he had some shaky moments earlier this season, I think he was the best goalkeeper in MLS in 2016, over the whole course of the season. While Andre Blake won Goalkeeper of the Year last season and had a lights-out first two-thirds of the season, I think Bingham was quietly the most consistent GK last year, on what was really a very mediocre defense.
Still, benching Bingham in favor of Andrew Tarbell, who has been fine but as Stejskal himself argues, does not appear to be any better than Bingham, was an odd choice. This has been a down year for MLS goalkeepers overall, in my opinion, with Tim Melia (remember him?) the only consistently good GK over the entire season.
So, I propose Los Angeles Football Club aim to pick up Bingham ahead of the 2018 season.
While goalkeeper has been a traditional position of strength in American soccer, it does seem like the limitless pool has become rather more limited in recent years. I think the story of Melia itself is illustrative — he was formerly buried behind extremely good goalkeepers at Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, before finally getting a chance behind a disappointing import at Sporting Kansas City, and really showed his quality. With the possibility that outstanding goalkeepers may no longer be a dime a dozen, picking up a starting goalkeeper in his prime seems like a no-brainer.
And for the team that picks Bingham up, the good news is the position should be locked up for years to come. Bingham has experience, but the positive of him not being vastly more experienced but over the hill like Tim Howard and Brad Guzan is that he’s not liable to go after a ball and break a hip at any random moment like those guys.
Plus, the price is right. Bingham is making about $197,000 this season, according to the MLS Players Union salary figures, and even if he were due a big raise if LAFC traded for him and signed him to a new deal, let’s figure he would no more than double what he’s currently on. That’s right around Guzan’s salary this season, and would you rather have a player who still has 5-10 good seasons ahead of him, or one with 3-5 left on that money?
I think that all things considered, an expansion team needs a strong goalkeeper, but in the current MLS market, it rarely makes sense to spend big money on a good goalkeeper in the context of MLS’ salary constraints. The transfer market for imports has generally not been good in recent years, and again, the crop of up-and-coming goalkeepers does not seem to have as many diamonds in the rough as in the past. And going through the draft and finding a young prospect can sometimes work well, but most prospects need a couple years to develop as backups and/or in USL before taking the mantle full-time. That’s exactly the process Bingham has already gone through.
So I think this is a no-brainer for LAFC. Stejskal’s report says multiple MLS teams are interested in Bingham, and I have to think LAFC are taking a hard look at making a run for him. With more allocation money than any team in the league this offseason, they’ll have cash to spend, and this would be a prudent buy. There’s no telling if Bingham’s heart is set on going abroad, but if he wants to stay in MLS, I have to think staying in California and joining with the ambition at LAFC will be a breath of fresh air, and team and player alike could find a building block for the first decade of the club’s MLS history.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!