SEATTLE — No goalkeeper in MLS is hotter than Michael Gspurning these days.
His shutout against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday was his third straight, and ran his goal-less streak to 330 minutes. That’s eight shutouts in 19 games played and counting, with a goals-against average (0.70) that could still drop just percentage points shy of Kevin Hartman’s all-time MLS record (.62 in 2010).
This being campaign season, it should probably come as little surprise that Sigi Schmid was in a stumping mood on Wednesday.
“For me right now, he's the Goalkeeper of the Year in this league,” Schmid said. “I think he's the goalkeeper that's been the most consistent. We had one bad stretch — that was the stretch where he was injured. When you look at our record when he's played, I don't there's a goalkeeper that can match that record.
“I think the fans out there and the media in other cities need to do a little bit of research and homework before they cast that vote when that vote comes up.”
Schmid specifically compared Gspurning’s numbers to those of Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen, who most seems to think is the current frontrunner for the award.
While it’s true that Nielsen’s 14 shutouts lead all of MLS, Schmid has numbers to make his case. Gspurning has a better save percentage (77 to 74 percent), a better winning percentage (.711 to .656) and a better goals-against average (Nielsen’s is .81).
One thing potentially hurting Gspurning’s candidacy — aside from his missing 13 matches due to injury — is that he so rarely makes highlight-reel saves. He changed that, however, by picking up a couple of those in the dying moments of Wednesday’s game.
“The reason he doesn't have to make a lot of those saves is his positioning is good and is solid,” Schmid said. “As a result of that, he hasn't been forced into a lot of those saves. You have to look at a lot of those games and say, 'Hey, that was solid and that was good positioning,' and today he had to make a couple of good reaction saves and was able to come up with them.”
Gspurning surely deserves some credit for his organizational skills as well. In his 19 starts, the Sounders have used 12 different backline combinations. Against RSL, the backline that finished the match consisted of converted midfielders Brad Evans at center back and Mike Seamon at right back.
“It was a great effort of organization,” Gspurning said. “We shouldn’t forget that we normally play with other guys in the back. We saw today that we can trust every player on our squad.”
And none of them more so, perhaps, than Gspurning himself.
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.