Whenever the topics of Joe Cannon’s shrinking goals-against average (down to 1.00, good for fourth in the MLS) and increasing shutout total (four, including last week’s scoreless draw at New England) come up, the San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper inevitably and immediately deflects the praise onto his teammates.
“I think the goalie, more than any other position, is vulnerable when the team’s not organized,” Cannon told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s why, in every interview, I’ve got to give credit to the 10 guys in front of me. I’ve always felt like I’m the same. I have the same weaknesses and the same strengths. This group’s just that much better.”
So, too, are Cannon’s numbers. In a full season, his career-best GAA is 1.07, which he set in 2004 with the Colorado Rapids. He also recorded a career-high 10 shutouts that year. If he can extend his streak to three consecutive matches by keeping Seattle off the scoreboard on Saturday, Cannon would be halfway to that mark with 22 matches remaining this season.
“I think Joe’s always been a really good goalkeeper,” said Quakes captain Ramiro Corrales. “In past years, our shape wasn’t always the best, and obviously it was difficult for him. But I think this year, our shape and our defensive commitment are way better than the past two years, and it shows.”
That’s not to say Cannon can take a nap between the posts. When New England midfielder Sainey Nyassi woke up a sleepy first half by cracking a 21-yard volley towards the upper left corner in the 43rd minute of last Saturday’s game, Cannon leapt to his right to parry the shot out of bounds.
“The team’s better, so everyone looks better, including Joe,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “If he gets less shots to face, or worse angles, he’s going to look better. But when he was called upon in the game, he made a great save against Nyassi. He looked assured and calm and all those things that Joe is.”
Cannon allowed 47 of San Jose’s league-worst 50 goals last season, leading to a career-high GAA of 1.68; it just didn’t feel like Cannon could be the guy who salvaged several points for the expansion Quakes in 2008. Combine those items with the early-season arrival of Jon Busch this year, and it didn’t take Oliver Stone to think the skids might be getting greased for Cannon’s departure.
But Cannon didn’t let any of those items shake his confidence.
“It’s a lot of little things,” Cannon said of the improved numbers. “I think I’m the same goalie I was the last two years. I looked back at last year, all of the goals, and I think you’d be very self-critical to sit there and try to overanalyze that season because our defense was soft.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes