On July 21st, 2017, the Vancouver Whitecaps made the surprising move to bring in New Zealand’s starting keeper Stefan Marinovic. With David Ousted being the long-standing incumbent, it was a puzzling move at first. However, it was quickly made clear that Marinovic was not in Vancouver to backup Ousted, but rather to take over as the starting keeper in 2018.
Sure enough, Ousted’s contract was not picked up during the offseason, and he moved on to D.C. United. Making it clear that the starting goalkeeper position was Marinovic’s, fan favourite, and heir apparent, Spencer Richey was ‘loaned’ to FC Cincinnati, reuniting with former ThunderCaps coach Alan Koch.
This season, the 6’3” shot stopper has started all nine matches for the Whitecaps. He has two shutouts and 23 saves, but a very ugly 17 goals allowed. Granted, he has played two matches where the Whitecaps have been down (at least) one man for the majority of the game. In those two matches, he has allowed 10 goals (with 11 saves). Removing those two matches (sure, why not), Marinovic has played 630 minutes, has two shutouts, 12 saves, and 7 goals allowed.
How do Marinovic’s stats compare to other keepers in MLS? He is currently 6th in shots faced, and 9th in total saves. He is tied for 7th in shutouts, although there is a six-way tie for first with three shutouts. Out of the 22 keepers who have started at least five matches, Marinovic is 16th in goals against average. Interestingly, he is ahead of the man he replaced, David Ousted. He has faced two penalty shots and saved one. I was amazed to find out that Montreal have allowed six! penalties already, with Evan Bush saving two of them.
While the stats paint one picture, the eye paints another. Heading into this season, I was a strong advocate for Marinovic. I felt that he would be at least on par with Ousted. Unfortunately, watching each match, I cannot confidently reach that same conclusion. It isn’t that he has been bad this season. The struggle I face is that he has not been overly good at any point. There were numerous times in seasons’ past where Ousted was the reason why the Caps won a match. Sure, Davies has grabbed all the headlines this season, and we are only nine matches into the 2018 season, but I cannot point to any saves he has made and say “that earned the Caps points in this one”. This despite the Caps routinely ending with 2-1 scorelines. It is just that Marinovic has not done anything to wow me. To be fair, that is not necessarily a good thing, nor is it a sign of a good keeper. In addition, the defense can play a major role in whether a keeper has to make outstanding saves. However, the Whitecaps have not really changed their bend-but-don’t-break style this season, where they absorb everything and hope for the counter. As a result, there is nothing major that has changed in defense. In fact, it could be justifiably argued that the defense is not nearly as good this season as when Ousted was here.
The issue I have had with Marinovic is that he seems to be out-of-position too often. He seems to wander a bit and there have been several times where you question his sense of where he is in his net. While the Caps received two red cards in Kansas City, the match was already over prior to that. Sure, he came on a bit near the end of the match, but he was also badly positioned in the two goals prior to the red cards.
Marinovic is a good keeper, but has not had an outstanding start as a Whitecaps. To be fair, Ousted had a fairly pedestrian, even poor, start to his tenure here. It is far too early to come to ANY conclusions on Marinovic, however, the first chapter has certainly been written. What are your thoughts on Marinovic thus far? You impressed with him? Suitable replacement for Ousted? What have you seen in his matches that you like and dislike?