(Editorial) – Twenty minutes in the LA Galaxy’s MLS season, they had a problem. Starting goalkeeper Dan Kennedy went down with an injury and had to come out. He ultimately was diagnosed with partial groin tear and is still out of the Galaxy’s lineup. This forced head coach Bruce Arena to turn to backup Brian Rowe, who has played every minute in goal for the Galaxy since.
Backup Brian Rowe Is Getting The Job Done
Rowe has allowed only three goals in four games played this season, with a SV% of 0.850. He even earned Save of the Week honors in Week Two for a sprawling save on Shkelzen Gashi. He may not be a spectacular shot stopper like Jaime Penedo. He may not be as experienced as Dan Kennedy, but Brian Rowe is certainly getting the job done in goal for the LA Galaxy.
The 27-year-old has yet to be given a significant challenge so far. In two of his four games, the opponent received a first half red card. In Rowe’s 70 minute game against D.C. United, the Galaxy scored four second half goals to give him a comfortable lead. Rowe saved all five shots he faced in that game. In last Sunday’s match against the defending champion Portland Timbers, Rowe only faced two shots.
The UCLA product had developed a reputation of having decent potential but making too many mistakes. He always seemed to be a young keeper who just needed more playing time to work the kinks out. He’s never been regarded as a top prospect, but given the chance, he could develop into a serviceable starting keeper. On a team with constant championship expectations, those chances were always going to be few and far between for an work-in-progress player like Rowe.
Still, if you look at how well he’s played with the shots he’s faced, you can’t help but be impressed with Rowe’s performance. Of the three goals he has conceded, none of them have been his fault. He’s well positioned himself and made several good saves, especially in the Colorado game. Most importantly, he hasn’t made any big mistakes that led to goals. Rowe has also been decisive coming off his line to play balls in the air, unlike some former LA Galaxy keepers.
Take the goal conceded against the Colorado Rapids. Daniel Steres heads a Kevin Doyle chip into the air, allowing Marco Pappa to tee off on it. The ball bounces just under the bar and into the net. Had Rowe made that save, it would have been described as him robbing Pappa of a goal and the Rapids of a win. Steres is certainly more at fault on the goal than Rowe as well. Pappa’s strike was even nominated for Goal of the Week.
The San Jose Earthquakes scored on Rowe on a counter attack being down a man. This goal effectively came in garbage time. Jelle Van Damme misses on a slide tackle, that frees up Marvell Wynne to make a run at goal. This leaves Rowe and Steres on an island with multiple Quakes attackers wide open for Wynne to find. Wynne ultimately finds Chris Wondolowski, who scores from point blank range.
A shot from that close to goal gives the keeper very little reaction time. Like Pappa’s goal, a Galaxy center back makes a mistake that ultimately leads to the chance.
Fanendo Adi scored early in the second half of Sunday’s match. Adi goes one-on-one with Rafael Garcia, who is playing out of position at right back due to a Robbie Rogers injury in the first half. Garcia does not close down Adi quick enough, giving the No. 9 just enough time and space to pick out the far right corner of the goal. Garcia did as good of a job as you’d expect playing out of position.
This goal was more about a well placed shot than a defensive breakdown. Of the three goals Rowe’s given up, this is the one he most likely could have stopped. Maybe he gets in a better position before the shot or reacts a bit quicker. Maybe he gets a finger tip to it, deflecting it out for a corner or to a teammate who boots it up field. Still you’ll find few people who watch that replay and immediately blame Rowe for the goal.
Brian Rowe isn’t perfect, but he’s done about as well as you could ask for a backup goalkeeper through four games. His primary flaw throughout his career has been making too many mistakes. He’s made very few if any in 2016. He almost bailed his team into a draw in Colorado. He’s done everything Arena could reasonably have asked and expected of him. The kid might now steal games for LA, but it looks like he won’t lose any for them. He might even be more of a known quantity than a 33-year-old Kennedy.
Rowe is about to enter is prime age as a goalkeeper. His primary competition hasn’t been healthy the last two years. If Rowe keeps up his performance until Kennedy is healthy and fit, he might just make a case to keep the starting role. He is getting the job done after all.