Dan Kennedy started and finished 2013 as once again Chivas USA's most important player. Coming off a season in which he was an MLS All-Star and finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, DK did not collect the accolades in 2013, but was that because his performance wasn't as good, or because the supporting cast did him no favors?
I would absolutely argue it was the latter. Although Chivas has mostly been terrible the past three years, for the first year and a half of Robin Fraser's tenure in charge of the club, the Goats were solid defensively. Though they may not have scored much, and still gave up too many goals, they weren't prone to being hammered by opponents.
Of course, in the second half of 2012, Chivas' defensive record became increasingly worse. Still, Kennedy racked up good enough stats and observers leaguewide had finally gotten around to paying attention to his exploits in goal for the Goats, so that helped get him the honors that season.
In 2013, Chivas' defensive record was worse than in 2012, and there was no sustained period where folks perked up and said, "Hey, Chivas' defense is pretty good!" Just as a point of context, the team had just three clean sheets all year in all competitions, 36 games. That's a paltry eight percent of the time. Team wide statistics like that, to go along with just seven wins across all competitions, aren't going to win a team's goalkeeper any awards.
So the question becomes whether Kennedy's form dipped or whether he was responsible for the downturn in the team's defensive form last season. To me, the answer is no. Kennedy finished second in the league in saves for the second consecutive season. He dealt with Chelís' inadequate three-man backline for the first third of the season, then had to marshal the defense once Jose Luis Real switched to a four-man defense without having proper full backs playing on the flanks.
Here are DK's stats for 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Saves||Goals Allowed||GAA||Shutouts||Win %||Save %||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||31||31||2,754||104||54||1.76||3||19||69||2||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||2||2||210||N/A*||4||2.00||0||50||N/A||0||0|
* There is no official statistics source for shots and saves in the U.S. Open Cup, so it is unclear what Kennedy's saves were in those matches.
On balance, I think it's clear Kennedy brought more to the table than he took off of it. He did have a couple of down games, including the loss to Sporting Kansas City where he committed a penalty and was sent off, leaving Patrick McLain to make his professional debut in the worst circumstances imaginable, and the 2-2 draw to the Vancouver Whitecaps, where he uncharacteristically made a couple of gaffes to let the hosts back in that game.
The scouting report is pretty clear on Kennedy at this point. His distribution on short throws can be intercepted, especially if a teammate is lax in getting to the ball, and he comes well off his line all the time. Still, while DK has been burned on the first count, he has never let in a long bomb when he wanders around his box while the action is further down the pitch. I understand why he comes off his line, and why he wanders, but that is something that can be taken advantage of if the right opponent can get a good chance.
Still, picking apart Kennedy's game is basically picking nits, especially when it comes to Chivas. Kennedy was the captain in 2013, and while many argue that 'keepers shouldn't be field captains, Kennedy did a great job interceding on behalf of his teammates and bossing them around when it was necessary. He is a leader, and while he's stuck in the back all the time, he clearly has earned the right to be guiding a young team.
Plus, we can't forget that Kennedy did something no other MLS goalkeeper did in 2013 -- he scored a goal. Sure, it was a penalty, and it was in the U.S. Open Cup, not league play, but Kennedy was one of a very few Chivas players to score a winning goal in 2013, and he continued a trend that has long been popular in Latin America, of giving certain goalkeepers dead ball duties. And don't forget that Kennedy wasn't pressed into service to take that penalty just as a gimmick, but because other Chivas players kept screwing up their penalties and Chelís decided to go with a steady hand, one who converted his chance cleanly. Yes, it was a funny story, but he played a vital role in getting Chivas a win on both ends of the field, something we've long joked about anyway.
During the 2013 season, Kennedy signed a contract extension with the team through 2016, so by all appearances he will be back with the club for 2014. That's great news, obviously, as Kennedy remains the primary building block of the team, and at 31 still should have many strong years between the posts ahead of him.
Kennedy was the second-highest player on the team (behind Carlos Bocanegra) as of the last release by the MLS Players' Union in 2013, at $192,500 base salary ($194,166.67 guaranteed compensation). First, if that's the second-highest salary on the team, you know the payroll isn't very high, and second, Kennedy is worth every penny. The guy is an automatic start provided he's not hurt or suspended, and for all the problems Chivas have, goalkeeper is not one of them. Here's hoping there will be a stronger supporting cast to help Kennedy get results moving forward.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
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