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LAFC goalkeeper situation remains a puzzle

Is it rotation? Competition? Based on the match?

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Following a sparkling performance that arguably played the largest role in Los Angeles Football Club earning a draw against Minnesota United last week, Pablo Sisniega once again looks like he’s merited more playing time.

The only catch: Tyler Miller just started in the previous game, when LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield.

Time will tell what happens to the goalkeeping situation for 2020 for the club, but the unorthodox approach to rotating the two fairly young backstops in the latter half of the season is unusual, but mostly working.

I mean, LAFC won the Shield, it couldn’t be all bad. But how did we get to this point? A quick look back:

  1. Miller, the starter in 2018, when he played all but one game, started the season so well for LAFC that he was called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for the 2019 Gold Cup. He departed for that tournament after playing 16 straight league games this season and in stellar form.
  2. Sisniega stepped in to play in Miller’s absence, getting three games in the U.S. Open Cup and an additional three games in league play in the summer, playing quite well in that span.
  3. Miller, who didn’t feature at all for the USMNT, came back in for LAFC’s road game on short rest against the Houston Dynamo, and while LAFC won, his performance raised plenty of eyebrows.
  4. Miller also played the next game, the 3-2 loss to the LA Galaxy. All of LAFC struggled in that game, but two straight shaky games demonstrated Miller was clearly out of rhythm after having been sidelined for a month.
  5. Sisniega returned the next game, which LAFC won, but it was the 4-3 win over Atlanta United. A tough opponent, to be sure, but the topsy-turvy nature of the game reminded folks of LAFC’s shaky defense in 2018.
  6. Miller returned for the next five games, with LAFC going unbeaten. It looked like his rhythm was returning.
  7. Then Sisniega came back in to play against Minnesota. LAFC lost 2-0. It was a concerning performance, but Carlos Vela was missing. But some questions were raised about Sisniega’s play in the defeat.
  8. Miller played the next four games, and LAFC were unbeaten again, lifting the Supporters’ Shield after the final game of that stretch.
  9. Sisniega returned the next game, once again against Minnesota. He got some redemption as he was credited with helping LAFC get a point on the road.

What to make of the rotations? It’s a bit hard to say. All but the last two Sisniega appearances have all been logical, he seemed to earn the playing time and Miller was not at his best.

But then Bob Bradley decided to go back to Miller and give him a run of games, something that largely made sense with Miller putting together two consecutive unbeaten runs.

So did Sisniega come in, twice against Minnesota, as a coincidence? Some kind of matchup wrinkle? Miller carrying an unreported injury?

That much is unclear. Both goalkeepers have plenty to recommend more playing time — LAFC have won a title, after all.

But there’s a concern that switching between the two capable players could backfire. LAFC are about to hit the point in the season where they’re in a one-and-done situation for any remaining games left, and short of catastrophe you only play one goalkeeper in a match. Who will be the player who is called on for the elimination game? It’s probably Miller but you never know. Maybe Bradley is leaving the door open, hard to say.

If LAFC win MLS Cup, this is all moot. If they don’t? The goalkeeper shuffle could be something that is evaluated in hindsight, especially if the player who gets the nod doesn’t play flawlessly. Stay tuned.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!