SAN JOSE, Calif. – For the San Jose Earthquakes, the 2015 regular season ends right where it began, and perhaps no Quake can more appreciate the nature of that journey than goalkeeper David Bingham.
After opening the year against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium, the Quakes will once again travel to Texas this weekend to face the Western Conference’s first-place club with San Jose’s 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs hopes resting in the balance. A loss will knock the Quakes out of contention; even with a win or tie, San Jose still need some help in the form of a stumble from either Portland, Seattle or Sporting Kansas City to qualify for their first postseason since 2012.
For Bingham, Sunday’s match represents not just a chance to claim his 13th shutout in 34 games – which would set a new club record, besting Pat Onstad’s mark of 12 set in a 32-game season in 2005 – but also a shot at redemption.
The 26-year-old Bingham, who ascended to No. 1 status with the offseason exit of veteran Jon Busch, came off his line in the 92nd minute of a scoreless match back on March 7, hoping to punch out a long delivery into the area from Dallas’ Victor Ulloa. The half-clearance only went as far as the hosts’ Moisés Hernández, who was lurking just outside the box and delivered a stinging ball that went off Blas Pérez’s head and into the net for an unexpected game-winner.
Bingham recovered from that shaky start and later helped San Jose craft a 448-minute shutout streak from Aug. 8-Sept. 5, still the best in MLS this year. After making just five appearances in his first four MLS seasons, Bingham said the experience of playing every regular season minute thus far in 2015 has helped him speed the improvement of his game.
“You always get more comfortable with more games you play,” Bingham said. “It just comes with games. It’s the old cliché: Some coaches don’t like young players because they don’t have experience, but they won’t play them [to get experience]. The more games you play, the better and more comfortable you are.”
To Bingham, that comfort and the benefits of experience can be seen in smarter application of his forays into the penalty area.
“It just helps you manage your game a little bit more,” Bingham said. “Obviously, I’m one of the more aggressive goalies in the league, I’d probably say, but there’s some times where I need to go and some times where I need to stay, and over the last maybe 10 or so games, you’ll see times where I’ll start to come, and then I’ll know I don’t need to come, and I’ll throw the brakes on. … You kind of learn the situations a little bit better and can make that decision a little bit quicker.”
As Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear pointed out, “Deep down inside, [shutouts are] a team stat,” and the contributions of veteran defenders such as Víctor Bernárdez, Shaun Francis, Clarence Goodson, Jordan Stewart and Marvell Wynne shouldn’t be discounted.
Even so, there are still times where a goalkeeper has to rise to the occasion, as Bingham did twice last weekend, charging out to deflect shots from Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer in the Quakes’ 1-0 victory. That’s the kind of thing Bingham can reminisce about come December.
First, though, there’s a return engagement in Frisco.
“Records and individual goals are great when you’re hanging around after the season, having a beer with your friends,” Bingham said. “But right now, all that matters is making it to the playoffs and making a good run in the postseason.”