In a turn of events that came as a surprise to many, Sacramento Republic FC has a brand new keeper for the third time in three seasons. The club announced December 9 that they had declined Patrick McLain's option for 2016 and signed former Oklahoma City Energy goalkeeper Evan Newton. Coming off of a strong season for OKC, Newton looks to be the starting keeper for Sacramento moving forward.
Although the keeper position for Sacramento was not a particular weak point in the past, McLain did a good job in the net and was part of a defense which gave up the third fewest goals in the USL â Newton has been considered by some to be an improvement. To get a better idea of whether or not the move is in fact an improvement, we are going to compare McLain and Newton by the numbers they put up in 2015. Any and all Top 10 rankings are noted.
• Games - 24
• Goals Allowed - 30
• Goals Allowed/Game - 1.25
• Saves - 70
• Save Percent - 70.0%
• Record - 11-8-5
• Points per start - 1.58 (44.2 points per season pace)
• Shutouts - 6 (8th)
• Percent of games shutouts - 25%
• Games - 27
• Goals Allowed - 33
• Goals Allowed/Game - 1.22 (8th)
• Saves - 89 (2nd)
• Save Percent - 73.0% (10th)
• Record - 13-6-8
• Points per start - 1.74 (48.7 points per season pace)
• Shutouts - 10 (2nd)
• Percent of games shutouts - 37%
By the numbers alone, Newton appears to be an immediate improvement to McLain, ranking higher in every category by a few slots. His third-place finish in the USL Keeper of the Year award voting shows that very well.
The points gained per start number shows that Newton is worth a little over four points per season. Four additional points would have moved Sacramento from 4th to 1st in the tight USL Western Conference last season.
There is another important factor that should be taken into account that we have not touched on yet: who surrounded the goalie on the back line. The better the players playing in the back four, the better a keeper will do.
The top four defenders by minutes played this year for Sacramento were Daly (2293), Vukovic (2129), Klimenta (2321) and Kiffe (1819). Out of this core back four, both Daly and Vukovic made the All-League Second Team. No players from Oklahoma City made that team or recieved any end of the year honors. The closest that the Energy defenders had for league awards was Cyprian Hedrick and Michael Thomas, who both received one team of the week nomination as a defender throughout the year.
With Evan Newton coming in as a statistical improvement to McLain and moving behind a better defense than he's had previously, we see the potential for an even more defensively sound Sacramento Republic than last year. Fewer than one goal a game looks within reach if the rest of Sacramento returns for the 2016 season (hint hint, please re-sign Daly). With some luck they could even be the best defensive team in the USL. Here's to 2016 being the year of the clean sheet.