Editorial (June 27, 2017) – Clement Diop has started the last three games for the LA Galaxy with Brian Rowe still out with a groin injury. On the year, Diop has started 8 games for Curt Onalfo. He has 13 goals against and only one clean sheet.
Film Breakdown: Clement Diop Mistakes In Goal And What To Do About Them
Diop had a terrible game against Sporting Kansas City this past weekend. The keeper has struggled this season: he’s capable of making a spectacular save but is also prone to goal-causing errors. In the argument amongst Galaxy fans and pundits of Rowe vs. Diop, Rowe is clearly more consistent.
It’s pretty clear after this weekend that Rowe should be starting once healthy. But he’s still got several weeks of rehab before he’ll be back. In the meantime, what’s exactly wrong with Diop and what can be done about it? Let’s break it down.
Catching The Ball And Reboud Placement:
This was on display Saturday night. It’s become clear in 2017 that Diop has issues catching the ball. He also has trouble with rebound placement. Let’s look at some film.
This past weekend against Sporting, Diop had an absolute howler on a long distance shot from Roger Espinoza. He tried to punch the ball down and ended up deflecting it into his own net. After the match Diop said “my focus is not good and there is no else to blame.”
Kevin Baxter of the LA Times has an ongoing theory about European vs. American goalkeepers on Corner of the Galaxy: American keepers grow up playing other sports (basketball, baseball, American football) where they have to catch things with their hands. Thus they are comfortable catching a soccer ball. European keepers don’t have that experience from and early age and are less confident catcing a soccer ball. Thus they resort to punching it. Diop could have gotten square to the ball and tried to catch the ball or knock it down in front of him. He didn’t and since he wasn’t square to the ball it got past him rather than hitting his body.
Now let’s back up to two weekends ago against the Houston Dynamo. Similar to Espinoza goal, Diop had to face a hard shot from outside the box. He got a hand to it, but deflected it right in front of him and into the lap of Mauro Manotas. The shot was probably too hard for most keepers to catch it first time, but Diop could have deflected it away from goal. Worst case scenario, send it out of play and defend the corner.
Diop’s worst performance of the year came in April against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Galaxy lost 4-2 after being up 2-1. Matias Laba sealed the game off a rebound. This goal was less ignominious for a couple reasons. The shot was close to the ground, making harder to catch and control or deflect out of harm’s way. Laba also made a run directly at Diop so he was right there as soon as Diop made the save.
Lack Of Urgency Coming Off His Line:
Diop has come off his line a bit early on some plays this season. There’s nothing wrong with that, but once he gets within range of the ball, he doesn’t attack it.
Let’s return to that Vancouver match. Cristian Techera scored the first goal off a counter attack. Diop came off his line and out of the box to try and intercept a long ball from Sheanon Williams. Diop misjudged the cross and completely missed it. Out of position, he wasn’t able to cut down Techera’s shooting angle.
Diop gave up the game winner to Sporting on a bicycle kick from Ike Opara. Matt Besler’s cross landed in No Man’s Land, right between the backline and Diop. He came off his line once it bounced but Opara beat him to the ball. Once the goalkeeper comes off his line, has to get a hand on the ball. He didn’t and Opara scored.
Early in the season the Galaxy lost a game at the death at Orlando City SC. Cyle Larin scored on a corner in stoppage time with the ball set to land just outside the six yard box. The cross was an outswinger and Diop’s first reaction was to take a step back. Jermaine Jones did a poor job marking Larin, but if the ball is set to land in and around the six, it has to be keeper’s ball.
What To Do About It:
So we’ve identified two of Diop’s clear weaknesses. He seems to be good at passing out of the back, setting up his wall, and making saves on set pieces. But in transition, he has trouble coming off his line and playing the ball. When facing hard shots, he has trouble with controlling the rebound.
Diop is 23-years-old, young by goalkeeper standards. He can go back to fundamentals and work out the kinks. It might just take several weeks or months in training. Maybe he could use some time with LA Galaxy II in a low pressure environment once Rowe gets back. Maybe it’s all mental and he just needs to get his head in the game.
In the immediate future however, the adjustments might have to come from others. Jelle Van Damme is good in the air defensively. He might have to be more aggressive in clearing some of those long balls that would normally be Diop’s responsibility.
In general, marking inside the box will have to be much tighter by all Galaxy players. Get between the opponent and the goal and clear balls out without hesitation. Get to those rebounds Diop gives up before anyone else does. Play it safe and live to fight another day. The LA Galaxy defense might have to work harder to make up for their goalkeeper’s shortcomings.
On The Bright Side:
On a positive note, Diop has started taking responsibility for his issues. He said on Saturday after the game that he was to blame. He posted a message on Instagram apologizing to the fans and saying he needed to be better. That message has since been deleted unfortunately.
At the very least he’s taking responsibility and committing to correcting his issues. That’s a step in the right direction.