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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: Maxime Crépeau

Capped off a good season with a major sacrifice.

Los Angeles FC v Minnesota United FC Photo by Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images

After two and a half seasons in which LAFC rotated goalkeepers like underwear, to mostly dire results, the club acquired legit No. 1 Maxime Crépeau ahead of the 2022 in a big trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Crépeau had come off three seasons in Vancouver, the two in which he stayed healthy demonstrating he was a good GK on a bad team, who could get pummeled and still look good even if the results weren’t coming.

For LAFC, it was certainly worth taking the shot to get a true starter to begin Steve Cherundolo’s tenure, and there was the hope Crépeau could be the next Stefan Frei — as in a player who had distinguished himself on a bad team, then gone to a good team and looked terrific still, winning trophies in the process. On the basis of one year, it sure looks like LAFC got something like that!

But unlike his time in Vancouver, Crépeau could settle down with LAFC and he didn’t face a ton of shots, the defense in front of him preventing opponents from just bombarding him. As a result, there weren’t a ton of games in which he had to stand on his head for LAFC to get the win. In fact, there may have been no games like that in 2022 where he flat-out won a game or three for the black-and-gold.

And yet, beyond the constancy he provided in between the posts, aside from a couple games off for backup John McCarthy, Crépeau not only played a huge role in winning MLS Cup, but paid a significant sacrifice, literally putting his body on the line to deliver the trophy to his team but missing out on a lifelong dream to go to the World Cup in the process.

Here are Crépeau’s stats with LAFC in 2022:

Maxime Crépeau LAFC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 33 33 2,970 76 36 1.09 9 63.6 67.9 3 0
U.S. Open Cup 2 2 180 12 3 1.5 1 50 80 0 0
Playoffs 3 3 296 3 4 1.33 1 66.6 42.9 0 1
Total 38 38 3,446 91 43 1.13 11 63.1 67.9 3 1

Statistically, Crépeau had a season that was an improvement statistically in some respects — career highs in wins and clean sheets, as well as minutes played — but his save percentage took a hit compared to his elite and healthy seasons in Vancouver, when he was over 75 percent both years. His save percentage in 2022 left him firmly in the middle of the pack among regular MLS starters, not elite.

That comes through in his FBref.com scouting report graph, as well. Crépeau’s strength is coming off his line early to snuff out chances, but the underlying numbers did not regard this as a vintage season for him.

FBref.com

That only tells part of the story, however. Before his arrival, dating back to the middle of the 2019 season, LAFC had suffered from either having no clear starting goalkeeper or a starter who was out of form. This clearly hurt the team overall. Even though they could score seemingly at will in Bob Bradley’s tenure, the extreme pressure the defense was put under game in and game out required a top goalkeeper to stand on his head to preserve results, and in possibly the most critical position, there was a lack of that for a sustained period of time. LAFC crashed out of the playoffs in 2019 and missed the playoffs entirely in 2021 in large part due to that flaw.

Bringing Crépeau, an established starter who would not be afraid of the spotlight on him, in to provide confidence, stability and yes, good baseline play was much needed. Even without lighting the world on fire, Crépeau added enough in both on-field performance and intangibles to help push LAFC to the double. Don’t forget — LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield on the first tiebreaker. Every win counted, and simply put, with a revolving door situation at the GK spot in 2022, LAFC most likely would not have won the Shield, let alone MLS Cup.

And then there was MLS Cup. The Philadelphia Union were a formidable opponent and for a team that plays so differently to LAFC, the teams match up remarkably well against each other. Their otherwise good-to-great defenses kind of crumble in the face of the respective attacks, center backs start scoring goals in bunches, free kicks become a sudden weakness to stop and all bets were off.

Here’s where Crépeau thrived. Again, he had been under siege for three years with the Whitecaps, a team that never scored enough goals and often had to hold on for dear life to scrape out draws. He was forged for an epic MLS Cup, he knew even if he let a goal in, he had to be ready for the next play to ensure he didn’t let that one in. It was a battle of attrition, and the goalkeepers would be made to suffer.

By the time the second half of extra time came around in a 2-2 game, the 110th minute, an errant ball in the back led to Union forward Cory Burke bearing down on goal, with only Crépeau to beat. I mentioned a moment ago how good he is at coming off his line to snuff out chances? Well, he did that in the moment like no other, colliding with Burke and very much coming out the worse from it, breaking his leg and earning a red card to add insult to injury.

We all know what happened from there: LAFC, down to 10 men, bring in McCarthy, only for Philly to score to make it 3-2. I hate to say this, but because Crépeau’s injury was so severe it took a long time for him to be carted off the field, it gave LAFC the opening to tie up the game in the 128th minute. Then in the deciding penalty shootout, McCarthy was the hero as LAFC won 3-0, and McCarthy won MLS Cup MVP. Crépeau was swiftly transported to the hospital, eventually underwent surgery and missed all of the celebrations with his teammates over the next few days.

He wasn’t forgotten, as he FaceTimed his teammates throughout the celebrations, and it was poignant when his wife stood in front of the crowd, his family being honored in his stead at the championship rally.

The broken leg was an enormous sacrifice, because not only will it keep him out for several months in 2023, but he missed the World Cup with Canada, the men’s first trip to a World Cup since 1986, before Max was even born. Truthfully, he would have likely served as the No. 2 goalkeeper, and it was a disappointing tournament for Les Rouges after it looked like they might make some waves in Qatar, but to miss out was surely tough for Crépeau.

Crépeau’s contract option for 2023 was picked up by LAFC, which, yeah, of course. Like I said, he will likely miss a good chunk of the season as he recovers from the surgery on his broken leg, but hopefully he progresses well and gets back to his best again. In the end, in 2022 it took a whole club to land the Supporters’ Shield-MLS Cup double for LAFC, but Crépeau did his part, and then some, to write his name in black-and-gold lore.

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