The Gold Cup – A Player by Player Review, Pt. 1

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The Keepers

In Pt. 1 of my 4-part series reviewing the players at the Gold Cup, I’m going to examine the play of the two goalkeepers that saw action – Troy Perkins and Luis Robles.

Luis Robles

While Robles didn’t see much time, he at least got one full game in. As such, this review will be significantly shorter than Perkins’.

Positioning: One of the tell-tale signs of a well-coached keeper is how he positions himself on the field. His ability to read the run of play and his own juxtaposition on the field was relatively good throughout his only appearance. Robles has clearly been coached well so far, as he shows good awareness of himself and the ball. He moves his feet well in goal and stays on his toes, giving him consistent positions and readiness – something that isn’t easy to teach. Robles’ athleticism helps him move and adjust well to fast moving plays, but he often relies on his athleticism to make up for his mistakes too often. All in all, his positioning is solid for being a young keeper.

Decisions: I think this is the area that Robles needs the most work on, but it’s also something that can be attributed to an unfamiliar backline and a lack of confidence in those defenders. He made one glaring decision error on the long-rage goal, choosing to attack the ball wide to his left, rather than allowing his defender, Jay Heaps, to cover the play. Given the way Heaps played, it’s hard for me to fault the young keep for being so aggressive on the play. While it probably was a rash decision, keeper’s erring on the side of aggression are the ones I appreciate the most. With a defender struggling like Heaps was, Robles looked to take the ball away before more damage could be done. He was a split-second late, and the clearance and subsequent shot were unlucky for him.

Shot-Stopping\Hands\Crosses: It’s hard to make a sound judgment on this area for Robles because he was so obviously nervous in his first cap. He had plenty of shaky moments corralling the ball, but he generally showed good reactions to shots and crosses. His mis-judged aerial play on the first goal was unfortunate, but it was a tough ball for any keeper to make a play on. He does appear to be a natural shot-stopper though, and his athleticism certainly accentuates that.

Communication: This area is hard to critique through a TV set, but it looked like Robles is a commanding figure in the box. Unfortunately, I think his nerves and lack of familiarity with his defenders made him timid and less assertive than he should be. For a young keeper, though, it’s not unexpected that communication is a struggle, especially with an unfamiliar backline.

Distribution: Robles displayed a strong arm and leg in his lone start. He’s got good range on his kicks and seems to have the upper-body strength and flexibility to make the longer throws. From the little I’ve seen of him, he also appears to handle the ball well at his feet. He’s not nearly accurate enough yet on his distributions, but he’s clearly got the range to eventually be a top-notch distributor from the back.

———–

Troy Perkins

Perkins played in 5 of the 6 games and was nothing short of rock-solid in the back. Personally, I think Perkins has emerged as a legit #2 keeper in the national team pool, ahead of the overrated Brad Guzan.

Positioning: Perkins appears to be a real student of the position, as he moves his feet quickly and efficiently to keep his position. He reads the game quite well and was rarely caught out of position in any of his games. For a keeper that was working at Dick’s Sporting Goods just a few short years ago, he’s impressive from a tactical standpoint.

Decisions: Perkins decision-making was largely fantastic, mostly because he displays a good knowledge of when to attack and when to hold off. More importantly, Perkins doesn’t waiver on any decision, typically acting decisively on his instincts (which appear to be good as well). Part of being a good decision-maker isn’t just making the right decision, but acting quickly and strongly on the decisions you make. Perkins gets very few marks against him in this area.

Shot-stopping\Hands\Crosses: Going into the final with Mexico, my one complaint with Perkins was that he hadn’t really looked to me as a natural shot-stopper (he hadn’t exactly been peppered with shots either thus far). But, the Mexico game showed that Perkins ability to make reactionary saves (repeatedly) is something he’s got in his repertoire. He appears to have big hands, which make his catches much more “sure” (less bobbling), and also knows how to use his body to absorb long-range efforts so as not to spill them off his hands. His ability against  good crosses is still rather untested, but Mexico challenged him in the  air and found very little to work with. Perkins’ size, length, and large hands makes him a naturally good cross defender. I would like to see him even be a slight bit more aggressive in the box, if anything.

Communication: Again, it’s hard to really get a feel for the communication through the TV, especially considering that the crowd was quite loud through the final. From what little I could tell, Perkins has a great command of his box, but I think his defenders left him out  to dry quite a bit against Mexico. He’s not yet a fiery, assertive leader like Tim Howard, but he communicates well to his teammates. He’s got a good foundation in this area to build on.

Distribution: I thought Perkins showed an impressive range from his foot, though we didn’t see a huge range from his arm. The impressive part of his clearances from the ground was that he showed the ability to his lofted balls and line drives – something that even the best of keepers can struggle with. He’s got a good deal of power behind his kicks, but the ability to keep a ball low off the clearance will serve him well in the future. His passing on the ground was good, but that’s not to say he  can’t improve there. He also appears to have good use of his off-foot as well.

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