Perhaps overshadowed by a 3-0 loss that saw the LA Galaxy be anything but competitive on Sunday, was the return of goalkeeper Brian Rowe to the starting lineup. Rowe has only started two of the Galaxy’s first seven games, but in a competition that has him vying for minutes with Clement Diop, he was happy to get back in net, regardless of the outcome.
“As a competitor, you always want to be out there,” said Rowe, speaking to reporters after the Galaxy’s loss to Seattle. “You always want to be fighting with your guys. It’s a little overshadowed by the result, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to keeping this going.”
Rowe was the opening day starter for the Galaxy in their 2-1 loss to FC Dallas. And was then replaced by Head Coach, Curt Onalfo in order to foster a more competitive environment when the team faced off against Portland.
“I want competition in positions…” Curt Onalfo, LA Galaxy Head Coach
“I want competition in positions and I felt like it was a good opportunity to give Diop the game,” said Onalfo of Diop after the loss to Portland. “He’s going to play for us. He’s going to play games this year so if you just look at the track record, there’s often injuries to goalkeepers and you need them to have minutes.”
And it seemed that Onalfo was proven correct. Just before the Galaxy were to face off against Real Salt Lake, Rowe was sidelined with a shoulder injury. An injury that would see him miss that RSL game and the next one, against Vancouver — although Rowe was on the bench for the second but didn’t play.
But after a poor performance by Diop vs Vancouver, it was widely theorized that Rowe would once again regain the starting position. But he was left on the bench, again. The Galaxy beat the Impact 2-0 as their opponents were reduced to just 10-men but it was still a puzzling scenario. Why would Diop continue to get starts if Onalfo was fostering competition? Was there punishment for bad play?
With both goalkeepers separated by a thin margin, but wildly different goalkeeping styles, the decision is probably closer than most would like to admit. Rowe is a steady, reliable man between the posts who makes the saves he’s supposed to and doesn’t typically put his team in a bad situation. While Diop is an extremely athletic player with a ton of speed. He’s capable of making the big save, and the miraculous play, but he’s also the guy who gives up big rebounds, comes off his line recklessly, and can perplex you with his decision making.
Some would argue that Rowe, being the cautious, steady type would be the preferred choice. While some would admit that Diop has the much higher ceiling in terms of ability.
But against Seattle, Rowe was clearly going to be the starter after Diop went down with an injury, again proving Onalfo right, but not really making anything more clear as to who the number one goalkeeper on the team would be.
At what point does it become detrimental to both players to not have a number one goalkeeper? And who is that guy right now? Diop has seen more starts and been given a lot more leeway to make mistakes. Will Rowe also get that same freedom?
“I mean we’re all competitors, and we all want to be out there on the weekend and play.” Brian Rowe, LA Galaxy Goalkeeper
But Rowe isn’t letting decisions that are out of his control bother him. Even when he acknowledges that this whole competition can be difficult.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” Rowe acknowledged. “I mean we’re all competitors, and we all want to be out there on the weekend and play. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m there every weekend supporting (Clement) Diop, Jon Kempin and any of these guys and I want them to do well.
“I mean we’re all stepping out there every day, and we’re trying to do our best to compete.”
As it stands, the competition is alive and well. But with Diop’s injury status up in the air, for Philadelphia will Rowe get a repeat performance on the field? If competition is really an issue then perhaps it’s his turn to grow into the Galaxy’s first option on gameday.