One of the hottest, debatable topics at FC Dallas at the moment is the competition in the goalkeeper position. It's a pretty tight one too that isn't easy to take a pick on as the main two options there both have their arguments for a starting role. The two options are 20-year old talented FCD Academy graduate Jesse Gonzalez and 29-year old long time FCD veteran Chris Seitz.
As well as know, Gonzalez won the starting position late last summer and kept it all the way through until last month's international break when he joined the Mexican U-23 national team in their preparations for the Summer Olympics and Seitz took over the reins for the trip to D.C. United. It was expected to be a one-time thing for Seitz before Jesse returns to continue as the starter, beginning with the following week against Columbus.
But Seitz's good performance, which included a penalty save, and clean sheet in a 3-0 win over DC impressed Oscar Pareja who has continued with him in goal ever since. Seitz has now started five straight games for FCD and there doesn't seem to be a way back in the team at the moment for Jesse, although no one could really argue that Seitz hasn't done anything wrong in the last few games that should put him back on the bench.
But Jesse hasn't done anything wrong to deserve being put back on the bench either. So who should start?
The key areas that any modern goalkeeper should specialize in shot stopping, organizing and communicating with their defenders, commanding their areas, and their footwork. I'll look at how their statistics looked in their MLS appearances over 2015 and so far in 2016 to get a larger sample to make for a fairer comparison between the two. Seitz has played 12 games in that period while Gonzalez has played 18. Let's see how they each fare in these areas:
This mainly concerns with saves, catches, and punches. According to MLSSoccer.com's recorded stats, Seitz had made 34 saves in those 12 games (average of 2.8 saves per game) and Gonzalez has stopped 56 goal attempts in 18 games (average of 3.1 saves per game). In those same games, Seitz has conceded 15 in total (average of 1.25 per game) and Gonzalez has conceded 23 (average of 1.27 per game). In 12 games, Seitz has kept 4 clean sheets (1 in 3 on average) while Gonzalez has kept 7 in 18 (0.38 on average) So in regards to shot stopping and allowed goals, they've been fairly identical.
Commanding their areas
Now let's look at catches and punches, two stats that would give us an idea of how good they are at commanding their areas. According to Squawka stats, Gonzalez has had an average of 83% in 2015 and 96% in 2016 when it comes to claiming/catching the ball while Seitz had averages of 100% in 2015 and 97% in 2016. As for punches, Gonzalez had an average of 33% in 2015 and 46% in 2016 while Seitz's numbers were 71% last year and 60% this year. So again, they're toe-to-toe when it comes to catching the ball but Seitz is comfortably better at coming off his line and punching it, which is an indicator that he is better at averting the danger in his box.
This has to do with their distribution and positioning, While it's difficult to find stats that calculate their positioning aside from looking at the ones above and trying to formulate an opinion on them, there is a way to look at who is better at passing the ball with their feet out of the box. Seitz's successful passing averages are 65% in 2015 and 62% in 2016 while Gonzalez's are 56% last year and 66% this year. Seitz's average passing length was 39 meters in 2015 and 42 this season while Gonzalez's was 37 meters last season and 42 meters in 2016.
While Seitz was better in this area last year, it is clear that Jesse has made up some ground in 2016 by improving his game with his feet, which was one of his biggest weaknesses as we saw in the second half of 2015. Seitz's passing averages have always been in the 60s percentage-wise throughout his FCD career but Gonzalez is getting better at it himself as the small sample at our disposal portrays.
We all know the raw potential that Jesse Gonzalez has which makes him one of the finer goalkeepers in his age group in MLS, but Chris Seitz's experience, height advantage, and slight superiority in commanding his area is also important to this team which comes in handy throughout a season.
Seitz has done very well in the opportunities that he's got this year since taking his chance when Jesse went off on international duty, but it's not sure why Pareja didn't put him back into the team at any point ever since. Was he upset with Gonzalez's display in the Houston debacle and does he think Seitz is a safer option for those tough games following that DCU performance? Is the fact that Jesse may be unavailable often this season with international commitments at the Toulon Tournament and Olympics with Mexico to come while Seitz, barring an unlikely USMNT callup, will likely always be at his disposal? Is it because Seitz is more experienced and that's what this team needs more in light of its current defensive problems and that may come more in handy since the back four has changed so much since last year?
It's anyone's guess really. Who Pareja prefers is solely his and his coaching staff's decision on what they see fit. What we do know is that arguments can be formed for both of them in the conversation over who should start in goal, but the reality is that they're both good goalkeepers that FCD is fortunate to have and that the competition between them brings out the best in them which is always a positive thing for any team who wants to have strong depth and challenge for titles.
Now who do you guys think should be FCD's starting #1, Chris Seitz or Jesse Gonzalez? Do you think Seitz deserves to keep his place in the team for as long as he's playing well or do you think that Jesse will eventually regain his place after the Olympics late in the summer like last year or even earlier? Let us know in your comments and vote in the poll.