On Sunday, when the Revolution visit Southern California to compete for the MLS crown, they will set out to halt a storybook ending for golden boy Landon Donovan and his famed Los Angeles club. From top to bottom, the Galaxy feature a free-flowing roster of savvy veterans, a crew who will seek its fifth championship in club history. But can Donovan and his teammates take down Chris Tierney, Charlie Davies and a prideful cast of local New Englanders?
Over the course of Championship Week, we will break down each of the four position battles, starting with the goalkeepers. Which team gains from the greatest edge from its netminder?
Despite waiting four postseason matches to concede his first goal, and showing well in the first leg of his club's leg-one victory over Seattle, Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo struggled mightily on Sunday evening. After slow decision making led to a Clint Dempsey assist, Penedo gaffed on a near-post strike, a goal that nearly spoiled the series for LA. Could Penedo have simply endured an off match? Sure. But he looked extremely tentative on the biggest stage, failing to confidently make key decisions between the pipes.
On the other hand, Bobby Shuttleworth will enter Sunday's match on the cusp of an elite performance, having played hero in the waning moments of the Eastern Conference Finals. Even in the face of pressure, Bobby proved resolute, making several outstanding saves to keep the Revs season alive. If we're judging based on current form, the Revolution claim an advantage.
On paper, I think Jaime Penedo is the better goalkeeper. Yes, he played with a better defense in front of him and yes, Bobby Shuttleworth made more saves, but I still think that Bobby has weaknesses you just don't see in Penedo. That said, games aren't played on paper, and form has a lot do with how a goalkeeper performs in a one-off match, especially one as high-pressure as the MLS Cup Final. On the strength of form, Shuttleworth goes over the top.
Despite having conceded six goals in four matches now, Shuttleworth has played like some kind of titanic superhero in net. He was huge in the home leg against Columbus, bailed the Revs out more than once in New York, and his utter and complete command of the air in the box on Saturday was probably the difference in a match that almost went south for the Revs real fast. Penedo has played well during the playoffs, but then so has his defense, as the Galaxy have gone full-on Bruce Arena and slammed the gates shut on opponents. Against Seattle on Sunday, though, Penedo was nearly the most-visible culprit for what would have been a very disappointing aggregate loss. He looked uncomfortable, where Bobby has looked terrifyingly calm. Shuttleworth gets the edge, but only barely.
On paper, I think Penedo is the better keeper, but on form right now it's Shuttleworth. Penedo was not good against the Sounders in the second leg, and played very timidly after allowing Clint Dempsey to score form long range. Even after the slight deflection from his defender Omar Gonzalez that ball should have been saved. Odds are Penedo can shake off one bad game and return to the form that saw him post three shutouts in four playoff games, especially if stalwart center back A.J De LaGarza is back in front of him for the Final. But Shuttleworth has been quietly solid throughout the playoffs. Despite giving up a number of goals, he's also made two or three times the impressive saves. Plus, all the goals the Revs allowed against New York came at close range and usually on second chance efforts, plays that are more on the defense not clearing the ball rather than Shuttleworth making a mistake. I'll call this one a wash.
Consensus: Revolution, 2.5 votes
Riding the "what have you done for me lately" train, our staff chose to move away from Jamie Penedo and his leg-two struggles, awarding Bobby Shuttleworth and the Revolution a Part I edge.
What about you? Which team do you believe gains from the greatest edge from its goalkeeper? Tell us below.