With the acquisition of Rais Mbolhi on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Union added to the relatively small crop of foreign goalkeepers who have come to MLS.
There have only been 32 goalkeepers who hail from outside the United States or Canada to make an appearance in a MLS game. Only 20 of these 32 players have played more than 10 games in the league.
Generally, foreign ‘keepers have fit into one of two categories: young players who came to the US for college or experienced players who came to MLS after years playing in foreign leagues.
The first category describes players like Stefan Frei, Bouna Coundoul and Milos Kocic. These three are just examples of players who spent the first part of their lives on foreign soil before coming to the North America. They all attended college here and were drafted by an MLS team in the SuperDraft.
The second category is where players like Donovan Ricketts, Jimmy Nielsen and Michael Gspurning come in. There are many more examples of these types of 'keepers coming to MLS, but these three all came to the US after successful European careers.
In the past couple of years, this has become more and more common in MLS. All you have to do is look at the past year-and-a-half, in which we have seen Raul Fernandez, David Ousted, Jaime Penedo and Julio Cesar enter the league. These players have had varying success in MLS, but there is no doubt that we are seeing more teams resort to this option when it comes to their goalkeeping corps.
It’s not necessarily a unique trend over the past couple of years, as one of the big acquisitions in the early days of the league was Jorge Campos, one of the best goalkeepers in Mexico and a regular for El Tri. Former Italy star Walter Zenga followed a year later.
Check out the chart below with foreign 'keepers and the year they arrived in MLS, and notice the uptick in arrivals over the past couple of seasons. Also see the entire list of foreign goalkeepers who have ever played a minute in MLS.
Foreign GKs Arrival in MLS
|PLAYER||MINUTES IN MLS||YEARS IN MLS|
|Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica)||13,652||2009-Present|
|Jimmy Nielsen (Denmark)||11,497||2010-2013|
|Stefan Frei (Switzerland)||9,021||2009-Present|
|Darío Sala (Argentina)||8,845||2005-2010|
|Bouna Coundoul (Senegal)||8,823||2005-2011|
|Jorge Campos (Mexico)||4,326||1996-1998|
|Michael Gspurning (Austria)||4,320||2012-2013|
|Walter Zenga (Italy)||4,105||1997-1999|
|Milos Kocic (Serbia)||3,679||2009-2013|
|Raúl Fernández (Peru)||3,168||2013-Present|
|David Ousted (Denmark)||2,970||2013-Present|
|Faryd Mondragón (Colombia)||2,385||2011|
|Jaime Penedo (Panama)||2,250||2013-Present|
|Chris Woods (England)||2,070||1996|
|Thomas Ravelli (Sweden)||2,053||1998|
|Carlo Cudicini (Italy)||1,890||2013|
|Louis Crayton (Liberia)||1,620||2008-2009|
|Ronald Waterreus (Netherlands)||1,557||2007|
|Aidan Heaney (England)||1,534||1996-1997|
|Frank Rost (Germany)||945||2011|
|Shaka Hislop (Trinidad)||900||2006-2007|
|Paolo Tornaghi (Italy)||810||2012-Present|
|Srdjan Djekanovic (Serbia)||635||2007|
|Freddy Hall (Bermuda)||630||2012|
|Júlio César (Brazil)||630||2014|
|Tony Caig (England)||602||2008|
|José Fernández (Bolivia)||578||2001|
|Sergio García (Mexico)||441||2005|
|Martín Zuñiga (Mexico)||360||2005|
|Jake Gleeson (New Zealand)||315||2011-Present|
|César Delgado (Mexico)||90||1999|
|José Carvallo (Peru)||90||2008|