CARSON, Calif. – Make no mistake, goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini is the LA Galaxy’s number one man between the pipes.
Bruce Arena may have left the 39-year-old ‘keeper home in favor of backup Brian Rowe for LA’s 3-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake last week, but the Galaxy head coach will not allow any impression that there is a goalkeeping controversy brewing in his locker room.
“Carlo is our number one goalkeeper, if you haven’t figured out of 14 [MLS regular season] games, he’s started in 12 of them,” said Arena. “By the math then you can figure that out. It’d be like saying that Jonathan Quick wasn’t the number one goalkeeper for the [NHL’s Los Angeles] Kings because he didn’t play a few games…Carlo is our number one goalkeeper.”
To date, Cudicini has made 19 saves in his 12 appearances, but has conceded 15 goals while keeping a 5-5-2 record. Prior to the match against RSL, Arena informed the veteran that he would not be traveling to Utah, not because of LA’s 5-0 defeat to the New England Revolution a week earlier, but due to his desire to give minutes to Rowe.
“I had the chat with the manager so I knew that I wasn’t traveling and it was not a surprise. I felt my like my performance since the start of the season is up and down. I want do better, I have to do better,” Cudicini told reporters earlier this week. “In terms of consistency, my view is that I have to play games and Bruce’s view is different and so I’m taking this time off from the games to train harder and get rid of a few physical issues.
“You can train harder, you can train sharper, and you get rid of the physical issues that may be bothering you,” Cudicini continued. “I’m here to play as [many] games as possible, not to watch other people to do it.”
With Rowe taking over for Cudicini twice this season, some might think that the mood has changed during training, but all three goalkeepers assert that is simply not the case. Both of LA’s backups Rowe and Brian Perk remain focused on improving their own game so that if a chance to start comes, they’ll be ready.
“We all just come in every day and put in our hard work by trying to get better each day. We prepare ourselves as if we are going to be called on,” said Rowe. “You can’t really worry too much about the [pecking] order because it’s constantly moving. As you can see, Perk and I have been going back-and-forth. You just come in and work hard so that if your number is called then you can try to perform.”
“There’s no question that what we do as professionals is try to compete,” said Perk. “If I have a good performance, regardless of whether Carlo is number one or not, that raises at least a question of it. So that’s all you really want to do as a player is make it a hard decision for the coaches to not play you.”
The Galaxy’s young goalkeeping charges must continue to improve, however, if they are to unseat the veteran Cudicini. That being said, in order to keep the youngsters at bay, the Italian will need to progress himself, something which the Galaxy coaching staff believe is right around the corner.
“When you review the goals that have gone past him, you can’t fault him for a whole lot. It’s been a combination of a lot of break downs. I would say that he probably gets a solid B. I wouldn’t put him in the A category yet, but I wouldn’t say that he’s been average either,” said associate head coach Dave Sarachan. “He organizes well, he’s a really experienced guy on our team, and he has made some saves. “Now can it be better? Sure. But I think that’s the progress that we’re making.”
As for what Cudicini has to do to get an A grade, and possibly end the chatter about a controversy, Sarachan has a simple answer.
“Make the big save,” said Sarachan. “That’s what all goalies whether it’s the [Chicago] Blackhawks and [Boston] Bruins or in league play when your defense lets you down and there’s a breakdown in front of you, you have to make that big save. Once he begins to do that, we feel the full package is complete.”
Cudicini remains focused on establishing that consistency. It doesn’t matter what whether he’s given less than an A grade or Arena’s has firmly christened him his number one. He just needs to continue to give his all.
“What I have to do is to train and when asked to play, do my best,” Cudicini said. “That’s it. I don’t have to think about anything else.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com