CARSON, CA - JULY 02: Why is he smiling? He got a good grade (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
As we have just rounded the midway point in Chivas USA's season and with the all-star game coming pretty soon, it is time to evaluate Chivas so far this season. So this week, we'll be taking a look at the different positions, players, and coaches and how they are faring. Let's start from the back.
A reminder of Chivas record at the moment: 19 MLS games (1 U.S. Open Cup Qualifier): 22 points (5-7-7) (0-1-0 in USOC); 6th in Western Conference, 10th place overall.
Dan Kennedy: After battling injuries the past few years, it was unclear coming into the season whether he would be ready or able to carry the load. Obviously Zach Thornton is a proven player, and has been a fixture in the league from the beginning, but he is 37 and even at his best, would represent a temporary option long-term for the Goats. Kennedy, 28, if he could stay healthy, would be the future Goalkeeper.Kennedy started from the third game this season, and at the very least, has managed to stay healthy. But his play has also been outstanding as he has emerged as the clear number one goalkeeper for the Goats. His statistics are good: 52 saves (6th in MLS), 1.12 Goals Against Average (between Columbus' Will Hesmer and Colorado's Matt Pickens), 5 shutouts (8th in MLS), 69% save percent. All good statistics, putting him, on the whole, comfortably in the top 10 of MLS goalkeepers.
In the more intangible sense, Kennedy has firmly established himself on the team and there has been no backlash against him, even when Chivas have struggled at times defensively. He has played steadily, and he has proven to be up for the extraordinary, as he demonstrated Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. He has kept Chivas in some games they had little reason to be in, and he is calm and steady. Unlike other MLS teams (cough, New York, cough) there is absolutely no controversy or hand-wringing over this position for the Goats. If Kennedy continues to stay healthy, he can truly establish himself as a strong goalkeeper and maybe even an all-star. I know Chivas fans think he deserves it this year, and I think he has been playing like an all-star, but goalkeeper is the deepest position in the league and Chivas just don't get the media attention around the league to key media and fans into him, so he is not getting a sniff this year, unfortunately. But, we can't ask much more of Kennedy so far, and it will be fun to watch him in the second half.
Kennedy's midseason grade: A-
Zach Thornton: Zach, along with the rest of Chivas, had a down year last season, but he was MLS comeback player of the year in 2009, stepping in after Brad Guzan's departure to England. Although Robin Fraser's motives were not publicly expressed coming into the season concerning his goalkeepers, he did insert Kennedy in the lineup as soon as he was ready. So although Thornton has only started (and played) in the first two games of the season, and they were both losses, I don't think he was benched because of the losses as much as because Kennedy was slated to be the starter this year.
Despite his limited action, and in light of the fact that he has been the backup for nearly all of the season, it is not fair to really scrutinize his play. He was put in a tough situation in those games, as Chivas had a new coaching staff, a roster overhaul, and low expectations. On the bright side, neither loss was a blowout (3-2 to SKC, 1-0 to Colorado). And credit must be given to Thornton for his reaction to warming the bench. He hasn't complained publicly at all, sends supportive tweets about the team and their performances, and likely has served as a veteran presence on a team with very few returning veterans. Plus, in the event that Kennedy can't play, Thornton is a pro, has loads of experience, and will hopefully have the physical tools to keep Chivas in the mix.
Thornton's midseason grade: Incomplete
What do you think? Leave a comment below!