Goal keepers are often the unsung heroes of the game and can see everything that happens as the action unfolds on the field. Dan Kennedy has been the last line of defense since he began playing Goalie for Strikers FC in Irvine, California.
Unlike famous strikers around the world such as Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast & Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (England & Manchester United) David Villa (Spain & Barcelona), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon & Anzhi Makhachkala), Fernando Torres (Spain & Chelsea), Carlos Tevez (Argentina & Manchester City), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay & Napoli), goalies do not receive the same elevated hype in the media. Strange when games are lost based upon their abilities (along wtih a team's defensive capabiltiies). Goalies are a team's last line of defense. The pressure is always on as this position has no back up and is unforgiving. Clearly goalies deserve recognition for their significant contribution to the game.
Important goal keepers in the world of soccer include Victor Valdes, Iker Casillas, Julio Cesar, Tim Howard, Hope Solo, Donovan Ricketts, Jimmy Nielsen and even Josh Saunders.
The goal keeper can control a match with his clear vision of the field. SoccerNation News interviewed Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA's goal keeper and discussed what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of professional soccer. Kennedy is an outstanding goal keeper making a strong impact on the field.
Kennedy minded the net for El Dorado High School before moving on to play for UC Santa Barbara. As a Gaucho, Kennedy set several school records, including shutouts, was named an All-American Goalkeeper, and played on the UC Santa Barbara team that reached the 2004 NCAA finals against Indiana. During college he also played with the USL-Premier Orange County Blue Star alongside teammate Tony Lochhead. After college Kennedy played with the New York Metro Stars (now New York Red Bulls), Puerto Rico Islanders and Municipal Iquique (Chile) before joining Chivas USA in 2008.
SNN: How has this MLS season been?
Dan Kennedy: In this game, a lot is measured by team success. We have fallen short of our goal to make the playoffs and this is definitely a disappointment. As an individual, you have to look at what you could have done better. This is how players improve.
SNN: How could you have improved?
A big part of goal keeping is getting game experience and providing the team with leadership. I feel, in general, there were not many moments this year that you could look back on where one individual fell short, and I would like to improve my leadership skills to help the team perform better.
All the best teams in the world have experienced goal keepers. Goal keepers help their team to be successful in many ways. I want to be in a position where I can make great saves and relieve my team from pressure, but also, as I grow, I can put my defenders in betterpositions just by communicating with them.
The more consistent I am, the more the team will feed off that consistency and it will build confidence. Confidence is very important.
I want to perform at a high level at every game.
SNN: What was Chivas' best game this season?
Dan Kennedy: We enjoyed great results in Seattle with a 0-0 tie and it was a fantastic environment to play in. And we got a win in New York early in the MLS season and that was a memorable match.
We just need to get better playing at home, playing in our Fortress.
SNN: How does a player's confidence impact a team?
Dan Kennedy: Confidence is something you see it in a great team. In every game, you will have the opportunities to make the game, and when players are playing at their best, they are feeling confident. When you are confident, you play better. You take better advantage of opportunities.
I have an optimistic mindset.
SNN: How does a goalie control the game?
Dan Kennedy: You can really control the tempo. If you are chasing the game and behind, you want to play more of a direct game and be a bit quicker. When you are on the road, and the game is tied and you are under attack, you can make tactical decisions and take the rhythm off the other team.
Set pieces are important and a high percentage of goals are scored this way. During the course of the season, it can make a big difference if you do not allow goals in through the corner kicks and other set pieces.
SNN: When did you first realize you wanted to be a goalie?
Dan Kennedy: Growing up I played a lot of basketball and soccer. During my early years of training, I excelled more at goal keeping when I played soccer. What I excelled at was fun for me. I enjoyed diving around to save the ball and goal keeper training. It is important to embrace the training and enjoy what you do.
SNN: What tips do you have for today's youth goalies who would like to become a pro?
Dan Kennedy: Without a doubt the only recipe for success is hard work. Everyone at this level has put in a lot of time honing their skills.
You have to work hard and work smart. I have learned along the way and am still learning today. I was very lucky as a young kid to have great trainers.
From a young age I developed the proper technique and I also learned a lot from watching. To this day, I still feel like I am learning.
SNN: Who did you admire while growing up?
Dan Kennedy: When I was young, I watched American players in the MLS. I admire Tim Howard a lot. Now, there is a lot more soccer on TV and we are all able to enjoy watching the EPL and other leagues play soccer. The EPL and Spanish goal keepers are great. Every country has their own style of goal keeping.
SNN: What is the American style of Goal Keeping?
Dan Kennedy: A good mentality. Tim Howard, for example; he is a strong focal point for keeping his team in the game. This is the American style, a very resilient approach. Consistency is the key.
SNN: How do you feel when you can't save a ball?
Dan Kennedy: You are always going for the shut out in every game, but you have to perform at a high level regardless and always be consistent. When the opposition scores a goal, it is not what you want but it is how you respond to it that really makes a huge difference. The game can go south if you do not respond well.
SNN: Other than playing for CHIVAS USA, what was your favorite experience playing soccer?
Dan Kennedy: Playing collegiate soccer. Being at college is usually your first experience on your own - you are not playing pro soccer but playing for college surrounded by your friends at every game. I enjoyed it and have really great memories of the camaraderie.