As a loyal LA Galaxy fan, I wasn’t worried when first choice goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts went out with an injury.
For the past few years I have always had the comfort of knowing Josh Saunders was a quality backup keeper. But is Josh Saunders more than just an underrated backup?
As a senior in college he won the PAC10 Player of the Year award in 2002. It was the first time, in PAC10 history, the keeper position received the award.
In 2003 Saunders was selected in the 4th round of the MLS Super Draft by the San Jose Earthquakes. He was quickly loaned out to the Portland Timbers who were in the first division of the USL.
He played in 16 matches and finished the season with a 0.90 G.A.A. In 2004, still with the TImbers, Saunders appeared in 24 games finishing with six clean sheets and a 1.11 GAA.
In just his second season he broke a Timbers record achieving a 363-minute scoreless streak. The Galaxy came calling in 2005 but Josh was third choice keeper behind Kevin Hartman and Steve Cronin.
He did manage to collect a MLS Cup and Open Cup trophy with the Galaxy but Saunders would spend the next two season on loan in Portland. With Beckham’s arrival in LA, Saunders was waived for the 2007 season prompting a move to the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Josh helped the Islanders to their first post season win in club history and racked up 22 appearances, 71 saves and allowed just 26 goals.
2008 was Josh’s breakout season. He signed with Miami FC and made 27 appearances. In those 27 matches he kept 13 clean sheets and allowed 33 goals for a 1.22 G.A.A.
The more impressive stat might be the 95 saves he accumulated for the Florida football club.
Once again the Galaxy came calling and signed him on loan for the remainder of 2008 MLS season. The Galaxy keeper made his debut in October during a a loss to the Columbus Crew.
Josh only appeared in three matches for the Galaxy in 2008. Bruce Arena was impressed enough to sign Saunders as a backup to Donovan Ricketts. If MLS fans didn’t know who Josh Saunders was before the 2009 MLS Cup final, they would before it was over.
Josh replaced the first choice keeper in the 66th minute of the cup final when Ricketts went out with a broken hand. The backup keeper kept a clean sheet for 54 minutes including extra time but could only save two Real Salt Lake PK’s in the deciding shootout.
As a Galaxy fan I was impressed. I was also very comfortable knowing that if the first choice keeper went out, the backup was a quality keeper too.
I have a bad feeling that comfort is heading out of LA next season.
2010 was a quiet year for Saunders as a healthy Ricketts kept Josh on the bench.
He sat there patiently waiting for his opportunity and in 2011 his “Time to Shine” came calling.
On June 25, 2011 Donovan Ricketts went out with a broken arm while playing against the San Jose Earthquakes. Saunders was put between the sticks and was red carded before the second half in somewhat of a comic tragedy.
Three key circumstances arise from this turn of events.
-Ricketts injury paves the way for Saunders to have an eye opening season.
-Galaxy fans get a look at third choice keeper Brian Perk, who seems to be out of the Josh Saunders mould. If he doesn’t work out Mike Magee can always be converted.
-This may be the last season we see Saunders in a Galaxy kit.
This season Saunders has played in 17 games. He has allowed only 16 goals and has accumulated 48 saves with seven clean sheets.
He has a 0.99 GAA and has a real shot at the LA Galaxy MVP Award.
So I leave you with a few questions.
Is Josh Saunders underrated?
Will he be a first choice keeper next year?
Who should he play for next year?
Even better, who needs him the most?
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