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LAFC 2020 player postmortem: Kenneth Vermeer

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Veteran had up and down ride in debut season stateside.

Portland Timbers v Los Angeles FC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

LAFC entered the 2020 MLS season thinking they were one major piece away from winning silverware, and made a fairly big splash signing in adding Dutch goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

Signed at 34, Vermeer had considerable experience, coming through the legendary Ajax academy and then spending several years at the powerhouse, before moving to Feyenoord, winning silverware there, and taking a short loan jaunt in Belgium at Club Brugge.

There’s a couple paradoxical factors when discussing Eredivisie goalkeepers in general: The league has a reputation of being a goal factory, with defenses decidedly weak in comparison, but there have been titan Dutch goalkeepers, too.

So this was the big, big move abroad for the veteran, and until Walker Zimmerman was traded away just before the season, it looked like LAFC were ready to win trophies. In some ways they were in the mix, in other ways not at all.

Here were Vermeer’s stats with LAFC in 2020:

Kenneth Vermeer 2020 LAFC Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 8 8 720 19 16 2 1 25 54 0 0
MiB Knockouts 2 2 180 8 2 1 0 50 80 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CCL 5 5 450 12 5 1 1 80 71 0 0
Total 15 15 1,350 39 23 1.53 2 47 63 0 0

Vermeer was the No. 1 to start the season, his aggressive style raising some eyebrows. It’s definitely true that the game has moved away from goalkeepers who are tied to their line, and it’s not really a surprise that LAFC were looking for a goalkeeper who was confident playing the ball with his feet.

Still, Vermeer’s play was often an adventure. His debut, in LAFC’s biggest game to date on the road in the Concacaf Champions League against Club León, was disappointing. The goals conceded in Mexico weren’t on Vermeer alone, but from the first game, doubt crept in.

LAFC did advance in the CCL, and Vermeer notched two clean sheets in a row, including the game against Inter Miami. And then the wheels fell off against the Philadelphia Union right before the season shut down, and that was kind of how the rest of the season went for LAFC defensively, racking up a mix of results but conceding buckets of goals along the way.

The doubt crept in for Bob Bradley, too and he started mixing it up, starting Vermeer for a game or two, and then Pablo Sisniega. Instead of giving Sisniega the No. 1 unconditionally, Bradley hedged and overall, it worked out by the end of the year. Sisniega got run, and while he wasn’t perfect himself, he provided far fewer surprises and a more assured approach in goal, and at one point Vermeer went 12 games in a row without playing.

But again, leaving the door open turned out to be a benefit, because Sisniega was ruled out for the final few games of the regular season, and Vermeer came back in. After helping them clinch a playoff berth in his first game back, LAFC kind of limped into the playoffs, and then Sisniega got the start in the playoffs, a disappointing performance overall for the black-and-gold.

If the season ended there, I think we would have concluded that Vermeer is not a reliable starter and looked to the future of Sisniega being the No. 1. But fortunately for Vermeer, there was more soccer to be played. He got the nod to finish off the CCL campaign and he absolutely stepped up in the moment, helping LAFC hold their nerve to beat Cruz Azul, then Club América, and stay with Tigres in the final for over an hour. Vermeer didn’t notch any clean sheets in those year-ending CCL matches, but he was assured, capable of making big plays, and finally demonstrating exactly why LAFC brought him in.

Could LAFC made the CCL final with Sisniega in goal? Maybe, maybe not. But even if you still harbor concern about Vermeer’s ability to be consistent as a starter for LAFC, you can’t deny he was absolutely tremendous in CCL. He rose to the occasion and found redemption for him and repaid Bradley’s faith.

Now, moving forward, who’s the starter? Who knows! I think both Vermeer and Sisniega have made a claim, but neither one has yet to really blow his competition out of the water. I would not be surprised in the least if Bradley makes it a timeshare until one emerges. Here’s hoping the results aren’t choppy if the goalkeepers are rotated fairly frequently.

And so it was a mixed debut season for Vermeer with LAFC. He was pretty lackluster, honestly, most of the season, but he came through in the final CCL games. Is that the launch point for him in 2021, or will it be reverting to the mean? Time will tell, and we’ll see if LAFC lift any silverware before Vermeer rides into the sunset.

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