Goalkeepers are easy targets for criticism and blame -- especially when the 'keeper is in his first full season after taking over for a renowned veteran, has a 2.33 goals-against average, and has allowed seven goals on 15 shots.
The statistics are certainly cause for concern but they do not tell the whole story, just like many do not look at the whole picture when considering the plight of Kansas City Wizards 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi and the team in front of him.
"The simplistic way of looking at it is the last guy to touch the ball, or the last guy who should've touched the ball, is the hero or the goat. It doesn't work that way," said Wizards coach Bob Gansler. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I know that last year Bo was in goal 40 percent of the time, and Tony was in goal 60 percent of the time. We did well when either one was in the goal because we played good defense and they did their part. So right now we're not defending well, and Bo is part of that not defending well."
Gansler used other statistics to further his point.
"Eleven guys score, 11 guys defend. I just said to our guys this morning that after three games last year, we were 1-1-1. We had scored one goal and conceded one goal," he said. "This year we're 1-1-1 and it's seven and seven. We have scored more goals together, we've conceded more goals together."
A younger 'keeper might be overwhelmed and begin to let his mind play tricks, but Oshoniyi's 10 years of professional experience help him stay level and look for logical solutions.
"[Allowing goals] is definitely a concern. I'm not too overly worried about it as far getting into my head; that's the life of a professional player. You have to concentrate on what you can do better for the next game," Oshoniyi said. "I think we'll get our shutouts, and I think we'll start getting better. I think right now we just need to pay attention to the little things. We're breaking down in certain parts of the field and teams are making us pay for it."
Don't think the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native isn't self-critical or immune to in-game emotions, though.
"The first [goal for the San Jose Earthquakes] was a ball over top to [Ronald] Cerritos, and he dribbled. I think it was Jimmy trying to close him down. He didn't really have much to shoot at, and he caught me leaning a little bit," Oshoniyi said as he recounted Saturday's 3-2 loss at San Jose. "For myself, I think it was a soft goal. It's a goal that I don't give up, one of those goals where you shake your head wondering what you did to let it go in. So I was kind of frustrated with that."
It's been a series of those kinds of little things -- resulting in a large event -- that have bedeviled Oshoniyi this season. Such a series resulted in the Wizards allowing the MetroStars a game-tying goal at Giants Stadium two Saturdays ago.
"I just saw the ball go off [Sergio] Galvan Rey's foot and under Nicky [Wizards defender Garcia] -- that was the case in that goal," said the 33-year-old. "It's just more paying attention to detail -- Nicky getting to that player a second sooner, for me, stepping up off my line that much quicker as opposed to falling backwards a little bit.
"Defensively we've limited chances. I don't think we're giving up tons of chances a game. But I think the chances we are giving up are in deadly parts of the field. At this level, if you give guys chances from 12 out, it's going to be difficult to save it," he said.
Ultimately, Oshoniyi and his defense would like to get back to the form that saw them garner 12 shutouts and lead the league with a 1.00 GAA last season.
"I think we have a good group of guys that have been around the block. We know there are going to be ups and downs in a season. Trust me, nobody wanted our season to start off like this. I know myself, Jimmy, Nicky, would expect to have two shutouts [by now]," he said. "We know that the biggest thing is to stick together as a team and continue to work hard. We need to pay attention to detail and every thing else will fall into place."
Oshoniyi's spirit is strong, as is his sense of humor, as he and his teammates head into Saturday's rematch with MLS Cup 2004 foe D.C. United. When informed the Wizards were also 1-1-1 last year after three matches, he quipped, "Right now we're on course to go back to the final."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story is not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.