In the next installment in our series of NYCFC profiles, the spotlight is on Josh Saunders, the team’s third player signing and first goalkeeper. The Puerto Rican born MLS veteran was the starting keeper for the LA Galaxy from 2009-12, and was standing in goal during both Galaxy championships in 2011-12. With Real Salt Lake last season, he manned the backup role behind USMNT keeper Nick Rimando. Coach Kreis has brought multiple players that he has previous experience with to NYCFC; should Saunders fully recover from the torn ACL he suffered last season, his championship experience and familiarity with Kreis will make him a solid acquisition for City.
Playing Style: How He Fits In
Saunders will bring veteran savvy and excellent positioning to the NYCFC defense. He is not the most athletic keeper, yet he has proven in the past that he is good enough to win as a starter. Of course, his LA Galaxy squads had David Beckham and Landon Donovan; that midfield duo was the primary reason for their success. But Saunders held the fort down on the other side of the pitch, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Saunders has been a member of three MLS Cup winning teams (2003, 2011, and 2012), but he has not consistently featured as a starting keeper. Saunders is not as experienced as many other MLS keepers, and throwing him into the fire as a starting keeper would be a risky move for Kreis. Their Real Salt Lake ties notwithstanding, Kreis can ill afford not not acquire a second keeper. City needs a wall, and for all of Saunders’s championship experience, he alone may not be the shot stopper City needs over a full season and playoffs to compete for a championship. That said, there are far worse situations than having a goalkeeper like Saunders between the posts.
Saunders was drafted in 2003 by the San Jose Earthquakes. He spent the year as their backup before going on loan to Portland and becoming the starter there for a season. A tumultuous five seasons followed, and Saunders changed teams every season (including stints with Puerto Rico and Miami FC, non-MLS teams). In 2008 he went on loan to the Galaxy, where he finally got his big MLS break.
Saunders featured 53 times for the Galaxy, initially backing up David Ricketts before becoming the team’s full time starter when his predecessor went down with an injury. He defended goal for the team in the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cups, before the Galaxy brought in former Chelsea star Carlo Cudicini to become their new starter and Saunders was moved to Real Salt Lake to serve as the backup for the 2013 season. That was when he first crossed paths with Kreis, and made the connection that has led to his NYCFC signing. Saunders has also been capped twice by the Puerto Rican National Team, as well as one US under-23 cap.
That’s all for now. Check in for our next installment on Chelsea’s legendary former midfielder, Frank Lampard.