Bill Reno: How to Make an MLS Goalkeeper (And How Well the Red Bulls Are Doing at It) Part I

Bill Reno joins RBNN this week to take a deep dive into goalkeeper development. Bill’s other written work can be found at ‘EVERYBODY SOCCER’. This is part one of a three part series.
Everybody Soccer is dedicated to following goalkeepers, typically centered on the American game although occasionally branching elsewhere. All articles, lists, and analysis found on ES are compiled by Bill Reno, unless otherwise noted.

By. Bill Reno

This week, we’re taking a deep dive into the three main segments of getting a young goalkeeper to become a number one for an MLS side. We’ll also be giving a rundown of the Red Bulls’ track record as they’re a bit polarizing on this subject. In certain areas, they are setting the standard while elsewhere they haven’t seen the return they should be.

If you’ve got four sentences into an article on goalkeeping, congratulate yourself on entering the top 1% of dedicated soccer fans and buckle up for the wild ride of goalkeeper development.

Just Get Them To the Next Level

At each age level, this is going to mean something different. While a 10-year-old may need some more work on keeping their W shape when catching or stepping off their lead foot on a dive, a 17-year-old academy player should be able to hop into a professional environment without bringing the level of play down too much. Blah blah blah this is all fairly standard and not exactly a thrilling read. The overarching idea is not stifle the great goalkeepers and maybe make the odd “good” goalkeeper bump up to “great”.

A good youth coach is constantly adding tools to the player’s toolbox while simultaneously not micromanaging a goalkeeper too much. The kid is the one playing the position, not the coach. Coaches have to set them up to be successful in whatever way that works best. If one falls behind, it’s incredibly tough to catch up. Not impossible, just very, very tough. The coaches should be focusing on progressing the goalkeeper as much as possible, while the keeper sets their own ceiling.

Progressing the goalkeeper

From day one, academies should be looking to cast as big of a net as possible. The more top goalkeepers you have in the academy system, the better off you are down the line.

As St. Louis Scott Gallagher goalkeeper coach Tim Kelly once told me, “We all remember that one kid that you played with who was just really good in goal, regardless if he/she ever had any training.” (I’m paraphrasing. He said it much more convincingly. If you’ve ever noticed how USYNT goalkeeper are occasionally from SLSG, it’s because of Kelly. So let’s just say he knows what he’s talking about.)

It seems like the Red Bulls have recognized this philosophy, as their goalkeepers don’t always fit a certain mold yet consistently end up at top colleges. Some are classically strong, American goalkeepers. Some are a modern, slender type. And some, like Sam Ilin, are a little undersized. It’s like a  Dr. Suess of goalkeeping. “No, I will not be scored on in a box. I will not be scored on by a fox. Also maybe I’m like 5’10” nbd I can still play keeper as good as The Rock…s.”

If I had to do absolutely no research and just list RBNY products off the top of my head from the past five years, there’s David Greczek (Rutgers), Gianni Carillo (Sienna), Yusuf Ozen (Memphis), Nicholas Giordano (Loyola Maryland), Tomas Lapinas (George Mason), Wojciech Gajda (Stony Brook), Santiago Castano (New York Cosmos), Mike Lansing (Bucknell), Jacob Wagmeister (Connecticut), Evan Louro (Michigan), Sam Ilin (Marist), Matt Frank (Stanford), Xavier Kennedy (Ohio State), Matthew Rosenberg (UCF), and Ethan Koehler (Georgetown).

Hmm, yeah, that’s a lot. And at good universities too. It’s not like they’re sending their kids to Not Good State College or something.

Honestly this production isn’t rivaled by any other MLS outfit. FC Dallas doesn’t produce that many D1 goalkeepers. LAG doesn’t come close, although they are doing some good things out west. But hopefully there are some Red Bulls fans scratching their head when looking at the list.

Every year we hear high praise about a Red Bulls goalkeeper coming out of the academy system who signs with a prestigious college only to not make the jump to the pro team. “Surely there is something running amok here, right?” Yes, there is, fictional reader I created.

RBNY grade for U18 goalkeeper development: A-

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

About Joseph Goldstein

Joseph Goldstein is the managing editor of RBNN as well as the co-host of the Seeing Red and Raising Bulls podcasts.

View all posts by Joseph Goldstein →

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