CARSON, Calif. – There seems a goalkeeper controversy brewing with the LA Galaxy, as criticism of Carlo Cudicini's efforts grows and following the acquisition of Jaime Penedo, and how it plays out through the stretch run leading to the MLS Cup playoffs could determine whether the champs' three-peat aim has substance.
Cudicini is expected to get the call when LA (10-9-4) take on Supporters' Shield leaders Real Salt Lake (12-7-5) in a crucial Western Conference showdown Saturday night at the StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). But Penedo is prepared to battle the 39-year-old Italian for the No. 1 spot in the coming weeks.
The Galaxy signed the 31-year-old Panamanian 'keeper, one of the stars of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, during their International Champions Cup break from league play. Penedo debuted in the ICC loss to AC Milan and was Cudicini's backup in last weekend's draw at FC Dallas, and he's certain to get playing time soon, at the very least during the coming CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
Head coach Bruce Arena says he is satisfied with Cudicini “for the most part” – goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer says the Italian keeper is “doing fine” – and brought in Penedo to increase competition in the nets.
“Like any position, if we think we can make it more competitive, we will,” Arena said. “If we think guys need an opportunity to play, we'll do that as well. So all of that remains to be seen right now.”
Cudicini was inconsistent over the first four months of the campaign but has shored that up since summer arrived, although he has received criticism for some of the goals he's conceded and his approach to dealing with crosses into his goalmouth.
“You're only as good as your last game, and when I say good, [Cudicini] was the starting goalkeeper against Dallas,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He's been our No. 1. ... We analyze, maybe sometimes overanalyze, when goals go in: where it started and how many passes and who fell asleep and what could have been done. I don't know if you can point to just one person.
“In Carlo's case, goals have gotten by him, but I couldn't fault him for every single goal that gets by him. It's a combination of a lot of things.”
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Cudicini, who has started 21 of 23 league games – missing just the first two meetings with RSL – says nothing has changed with Penedo's arrival.
“We already have a big competition with the two Brians [Rowe and Perk],” he said. “It's another goalkeeper; we have four now. It's exactly like it was before: Everyone is fighting for a place.”
Penedo, who spent time in Italy and Spain and came to Southern California after six years in Guatemala with Municipal, says he “loves challenges” and must “convince the head coach” that he should be on the field.
“The situation here is not foreign,” he said through a translator. “I'm trying to play hard and train hard and work hard and try to win that starting spot. If I win it based on merit and work ethic, that's awesome. That's what I'm looking to do here. I'm looking to work hard and let what happens happen.”