Best MLS goalkeepers of all time: Greatest GKs in MLS


Goalkeepers. The one position on the pitch which sticks out more than everyone else. It’s been said that you have to be mad to be a keeper, after all, they play with their hands and not their feet. Across the history of Major League Soccer, the league has developed a few great shot-stoppers and even attracted a few too. Let’s review some of the best MLS goalkeepers of all time.

Ranking the best MLS goalkeepers of all time

10) Tim Howard, (MetroStars, Colorado Rapids)

The unmistakable sight of Tim Howard. He wore the goalkeeping gloves for the best part of 15 years for the US national team. During this time, he proved himself with the MetroStars and took a sabbatical in England playing with both Manchester United and Everton before returning to MLS with the Colorado Rapids.

Despite never winning MLS Cup, he was named the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2001 and to the All-Star team on three different occasions. Interestingly, he was named the MVP of the 2009 All-Star game when his Everton team drew 1-1 with the MLS representative team.

9) Donovan Ricketts, (LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact, Portland Timbers, Orlando City)

No conversation about the top GKs ever in MLS would be complete without Donovan Ricketts. The Jamaican keeper lifted the MLS Cup in 2011 with the LA Galaxy in his only major career trophy.

Yet, that didn’t stop Ricketts from being one of the best shot-stoppers throughout his career as he won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year twice. Notably, one of those awards was earned in 2013 when he also got an impressive 14 clean sheets for Portland Timbers.

8) Matt Turner, (New England Revolution)

The current Arsenal reserve keeper wasn’t always a reserve. If he had stuck around at New England Revolution and got the club back to winning ways, he could have been one of the greatest goalkeepers in MLS history.

He earned the Goalkeeper of the Year accolade in 2021 as the team romped to the Supporters’ Shield. He was an agile player capable of stopping any opposition attack. If he returns to Major League Soccer soon, he could yet improve his stature on future lists like this.

7) Zach Thornton, (MetroStars, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA)

Zach Thornton is a man who has dedicated his life to US goalkeeping. Even after a 16-year playing career tenure in Major League Soccer, he spent multiple years as a goalkeeping coach at multiple franchises.

He won both the Eastern and Western Conference championships with Chicago Fire and Chivas USA respectively and was named the Goalkeeper of the Year in both 1998 and again in 2009, showing his quality throughout a long career.

6) Andre Blake, (Philadelphia Union)

Unlike a few players on this list, Andre Blake has stuck with one team for the entirety of his career to date. Philadelphia Union fans will hope he stays with them forever given his ability to keep the team in games with his skill between the sticks.

A three-time Goalkeeper of the Year, Blake has yet to win anything other than the 2020 Supporters’ Shield. Blake will be the catalyst for a Union title run for sure, or maybe he needs to trash loyalty and contribute to a team better befitting his quality shot-stopping.

His 15 clean sheets in 2022 helped the team get to the MLS Cup final and is the joint second-highest for a single season alongside Jimmy Nielsen.

5) Tony Meola, (MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards, New York Red Bulls)

As the only goalkeeper to win the regular season MVP award, Tony Meola should be held in exalted terms with the best MLS players ever, not just in the keeper category.

After all, he defined what it was to be a good shot-stopper in 2000 by keeping 16 clean sheets for the Kansas City Wizards, a record that still stands as the most in a single season.

4) Tim Melia (Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas, D.C. United)

This Major League Soccer journeyman keeper is still an active keeper at Sporting Kansas City, however he doesn’t play quite as much as he used to. After all, he is now 37 years old and he’s picked up a niggling hamstring injury. His past accolades speak for themselves as he was named the 2017 Goalkeeper of the Year and kept 13 clean sheets in the following season.

He also became somewhat of a penalty specialist as he kept out the highest percentage of penalties faced at 40%, saved 14 of the 35 to date. Nick Rimando might have saved more but Melia has a better save rate.

3) Jimmy Nielsen, (Sporting Kansas City)

Despite only playing four seasons in Major League Soccer, the Danish keeper took America to his heart as he made over 120 appearances for Sporting Kansas City. He was named an MLS All-Star twice, won the Eastern Conference twice, was named in the Best XI, and lifted the MLS Cup in 2013. It’s fair to say he did a lot in a small amount of time.

Nielsen had two marvelous campaigns at the end of his career as he kept 13 clean sheets in 2012 and then bowed out in the title-winning campaign with 15 shutouts, the latter of which allowed him to be named the Goalkeeper of the Year.

2) Brad Guzan, (Chivas USA, Atlanta United)

Despite starting his MLS career at the ill-fated Chivas USA franchise, Brad Guzan has gone from strength to strength during his time between the sticks. However, even with Chivas USA, he still managed to become the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2007, as he kept 13 clean sheets.

After playing for Aston Villa, Hull City, and Middlesbrough in England, Guzan returned to the US to become the number-one keeper at Atlanta United. In 2018, the team lifted the MLS Cup and Guzan followed it up with 14 MLS clean sheets in 2019 as Atlanta won both the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup.

1) Nick Rimando, (Miami Fusion, D.C. United, Real Salt Lake)

Nick Rimando might be the closest answer when speculating who tops a list of the best MLS goalkeepers of all time. Rimando played for Miami Fusion and D.C. United but was best known for his 13 seasons with Real Salt Lake where he made over 400 appearances for the club, only retiring in 2019.

He holds a remarkable MLS penalty record having saved 22 of the 81 he faced, a whopping 27.2% success rate of them. Yes, that’s the highest number of saved PKs of any keeper to have played a substantial amount of games. He was paramount to helping D.C. win the MLS Cup in 2004 and then with Salt Lake again in 2009 when he was named the MLS Cup final MVP.

Honourable mention

There might be a collective of players you’re thinking about, particularly a few keepers who’ve played well in the Premier League. Brad Friedel was a great player at Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, and Aston Villa. However, he only played one season in Major League Soccer, making it hard for him to be considered as one of the best MLS goalkeepers of all time.

 



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