Being a goalkeeper isn't easy.
The ideal is perfection, keeping the ball out of your net every single game. In contrast, strikers want to score every time they play, but the realistic expectation for all scorers (save, perhaps, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) is not a goal every game.
And it's in this context that we turn our attention to the LA Galaxy's goalkeeping.
On Saturday, Galaxy 'keeper Clement Diop allowed a real howler to open up the scoring for Sporting KC in a 2-1 victory at StubHub Center. A casual punch redirected the wrong way and, ultimately, in his own net:
He didn't exactly cover himself in glory on the second goal allowed, on an overhead kick from Ike Opara, either.
Obviously, goalkeepers make mistakes, like outfield players, and sometimes those mistakes cost their teams points. But this isn't even the first time this season that Diop has made a major mistake which cost his team points, as a match in Vancouver in April led him to offer a mea culpa. And earlier this month, he came off his line and positioned himself to be smaller for an onrushing attacker, who dutifully scored.
But Diop's struggles call to mind a persistent theme for the Galaxy regarding their starting goalkeeper -- they haven't really had a rock-solid No. 1 since Kevin Hartman, one of MLS's legends, whose last season in LA was way back in 2006.
Obviously there have been those to take the mantle for a time: Donovan Ricketts had a good run, and he, Josh Saunders and Jaime Penedo all helped the Galaxy win MLS Cup in recent years. But every LA goalkeeper seems to have a clock ticking, leaving a vital position unsettled for about a decade.
What's the solution? Frankly, it's not necessarily easy. Diop is young, just 23, and he's only played 10 MLS games to date. He showed in USL, playing for LA Galaxy II, why he was a promising prospect, with an athleticism nearly unmatched in North American soccer, alongside an obvious concern of playing very casually at times.
But the player he's split most of the Galaxy first-team minutes with this year, Brian Rowe, hasn't fully developed into a permanent No. 1 either, and he's had a game-changing gaffe or two along the way as well. Third-string option Jon Kempin is another young prospect, having far more experience than most MLS No. 3s, but still only playing eight regular-season league games. Could Diop, Rowe or Kempin become a rock in goal given enough time and experience? Maybe, but given the recent track record that may not be good enough for LA.
What about spending a bit of money to bring in a 'keeper from abroad? Maybe, but the club's history in that department is checkered, too. Penedo had a decent run but was out the door abruptly, and remember Carlo Cudicini? The longtime Chelsea backup was a complete bust in his only season in MLS, back in 2013.
There's also the crop of goalkeepers bouncing around the lower leagues. Some aren't ready for primetime, but there are players who toil in obscurity who can take the mantle; Clint Irwin is probably the best example in the past several years.
All of this is to say that the Galaxy's track record with goalkeepers means they have a dilemma: Do they stay the course with Diop and Rowe, hoping one will put the mistakes behind him and emerge as the next club legend? Do they aim to get through this season and address the No. 1 with a new signing for next season? If they do, how will they approach finding the right guy?
Yet one thing is already clear: If the current crop of 'keepers continue to struggle, this season is going to be long and unpleasant in Los Angeles.