For the second time in three seasons, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Pat Onstad has been voted the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.
The award comes as little surprise to league observers who have seen the 37-year-old Onstad post league highs in wins (18), shutouts (12) and save percentage (77.2 percent), and a league-low goals against average of 0.97. Playing behind one of the best rearguards in the league, the former Canadian international played every minute of every game this season, allowing a league-low 31 goals.
The season started rather inauspiciously for Onstad and the Earthquakes. In their first five games of the year, the Quakes allowed 11 goals, including three in a pulsating draw with expansion club Chivas USA in the second week of the campaign. But with April behind them, Onstad and the Quakes' defense turned their goalmouth into a fortress, allowing just 20 goals in their remaining 27 matches.
A defining moment in Onstad's season came on June 25 against the rival Los Angeles Galaxy. The Quakes eventually won the match 3-0, but early in the second half, with the score 1-0, Onstad came up with what seemed to be a miraculous effort, saving three point-blank chances in rapid succession to preserve his side's lead. Onstad said the sequence reminded him of playing street hockey while he was growing up.
That Galaxy game became a part of the Quakes' best defensive run of the season. Starting two-thirds of the way through a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA on June 12, the Quakes didn't allow a goal for 510 minutes. The team, led by Onstad, registered shutouts in three consecutive matches before finally allowing a fourth-minute goal against FC Dallas on July 2.
Onstad was also the Goalkeeper of the Year in his first season in the U.S. top flight in 2003, when he helped the Quakes to their second MLS Cup title. He ended that season as the club's all-time single-season leader in wins, shutouts, goals against average and games played in goal, only to re-establish each mark this year.
Onstad narrowly beat out New England Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis for the award, while defending Goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon of the Colorado Rapids came in third. Cannon also won the award in 2002 while playing for the Earthquakes, meaning a San Jose 'keeper has won the award in three of the past four seasons and Cannon and Onstad have alternated winning the award in each of the past four years.
The MLS Goalkeeper of the Year was determined by equal voting from the media (33.33 percent), MLS players (33.33 percent) and MLS coaches and general managers (33.33 percent). With each voting category representing one-third of the total votes, the formula used for determining the award winners involved assigning 33.33 total points to each category for a possible total of 99.99 points. Therefore if a player received 50 percent of the votes in any of the three voting categories, he would earn 16.67 points (half of 33.33) for that category.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.