TUKWILA, Wash. – The gold standard in MLS is to carry three goalkeepers on the roster.
Traditionally, there’s a starter, a veteran backup and usually a younger guy who is more of a project. Considering rosters are limited to 30 active players and goalkeeper is just one of 11 positions on the field, the ratio makes a lot of sense.
It makes so much sense that only one team carries more than three goalkeepers: the Seattle Sounders, who actually have five.
“It’s a little more difficult,” Sounders goalkeeping coach Tom Dutra. “The main thing is getting the guys all of their reps. I never want a guy just standing there not getting his reps.”
Even before Marcus Hahnemann was acquired right before the roster-freeze deadline, the Sounders were already the only MLS team with four goalkeepers on their active roster. Despite that, the Sounders were still down to one healthy goalkeeper earlier in the year and were forced to call in a pool 'keeper for a Reserve League game.
“We decided to create our own pool of 'keepers,” head coach Sigi Schmid joked.
Other than that hiccup, the situation has worked out well.
As a team, the Sounders have allowed the second-fewest goals (31) and posted the fourth-most shutouts (11).
When healthy, Michael Gspurning has the been the unquestioned starter. The 31-year-old Austrian leads MLS with a .74 goals-against average and a .733 winning percentage. He also has registered seven shutouts in 18 appearances, the second-best ratio in the league among goalkeepers with at least three starts.
It's a bit of a revolving as far as backing up Gspurning goes, though. Bryan Meredith, Andrew Weber and the so far unused Josh Ford have all been listed as the backup on the gameday roster at various times this year.
Meredith filled in when Gspurning was first hurt, but after playing well in his first three appearances had a couple rough games. Weber then assumed the role, only to be derailed by injury.
Once Hahnemann is fully fit, a day that seems to be quickly approaching, the 40-year-old veteran of two World Cups will be in that mix as well.
With so many bodies, especially experienced ones, managing workloads is just one of the issues. There’s also the reality that all them would like to be playing.
“I can’t make them a right back,” Dutra said. “There’s one position and five of them. Five signed guys. I think it’s difficult. There’s nothing I can say to them except let’s ‘Keep working,’ ‘What can we gain today?’ All I can do is be honest with them. This is the situation we’re in.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.