December 11, 2006
For years, Metro has been blessed with quality goalkeeping. From Tony Meola to Mike Ammann to Tim Howard to Jonny Walker, it was one position fans rarely complained about. Even the understudies, Paul Grafer, Zach Wells, and Jon Conway, have turned in admirable performances. But now, with Meola released and Conway the only goalie on the roster with MLS experience, for the first time in the club's history we are faced with a huge question mark at the position coming into an offseason.
There are options, of course. Conway has proved last year that he is no slouch, leading the league with a 1.00 goals against average and leading Metro to a 7-2-3 league record, compared to Meola's 1.45 and 2-9-9. He performed admirably during the stretch, and if not for the near-post DC gamewinner in the playoffs, we might not be having this discussion in the first place.
So where does Metro turn for a keeper, to either challenge Conway or take the number one spot from him? The logical answer is to search for one in MLS, but of course, Metro would have to give something up of value, and Bruce Arena recently iterated that there's not much we have to give. The availability of top-level MLS goalies is questionable as well; with Joe Cannon moving from Colorado to LA, he is off the market. The Galaxy still has Kevin Hartman, now relegated to a backup role, and knowing Alexi Lalas' trade tendencies, he can definitely be had. And even though Hartman can be terribly inconsistent, Metro can definitely do worse.
Another MLS name which could be considered is Jon Busch, who missed most of the last two seasons with injuries and does not look to be in plans for Columbus. Of course, he would be a major reclamation project, but when healthy, he has proven to be one of the best keepers in the league. But will he ever regain his form? Former Metro Zach Thornton can probably be had from Chicago, but he has suffered a recent loss of form, losing his job to an unproven Matt Pickens.
There are options outside of MLS as well, of course. The current Ronald Waterreus rumor doesn't make much sense, as the aging Dutch keeper is way past his sell-by-date. As with any foreign name, one must consider the salary cap hit and the intelligence of using a senior international slot on a goalkeeper. And unless Gianluigi Buffon somehow becomes available, using a designated player slot seems absurd.
There is also the USL, as there has been some solid history in low-division goalies, including Conway and Busch, making a successful step up to MLS. Last year, Preston Burpo became Chivas USA's starter after years of toiling in the minors. But then, he lost his job down the stretch to second-year pro Brad Guzan.
And then there is Meola. Still Metro property after clearing waivers, still thinking he can play, still wanting to start. Could he be back? Would he be happy with a backup role? Does he have any other options?
We could do worse, of course. Bo Oshoniyi is available.