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Marko Maric: Safe Hands? Tricky Feet?

We take a look at how Houston’s goalkeeper has fared so far this season.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Dynamo FC Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Marko Maric was the unquestioned starting goalkeeper coming in to the 2021 season, but the 25-year old Croatian has really made the position his own this season.

With a much-improved defense in front of him, Marko has not had to make as many spectaculars saves this season thus far. Maric has allowed four goals in three games, however in three of those goals conceded, there was not much that he could have done. Check out the banger that San Jose’s Paul Marie scored on Opening Day for reference. Yet, Marko’s cat-like reflexes were put to test early against LAFC when Diego Rossi found himself with a golden chance in the first half Saturday. Marko’s safe hands kept the 2020 MLS Golden Boot winner in awe as he went scoreless on his first appearance for the Black and Gold in 2021.

Maric has time and time again found ways to parry away shots on goal, but one thing that is in question is when the ball is at his feet. Of course, he is a goalkeeper, and most will argue that not all goalkeepers can play out from the back, which would be a fair argument in the 1970s. Most goalkeepers today have decent foot skills, and no one is asking him to be like Germans Manuel Neuer or Mark-Andre ter Stegen. It is easy to spot early this season that Marko does not seem comfortable when the ball comes to his feet, something that he excelled in last year. He appears rushed and ends up with a panicked kick out to no body.

Maric is fourth in Major League Soccer in attempted launched passes, passes longer than 40 yards, with 57 attempts. He has completed only 18 of those passes, however, just 31.6%. For comparison, Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan, who leads MLS with 69 attempted launched passes, has completed 36 of them, more than half. Maric has also launched 68.6% of his goal passes, second most in MLS, meaning he does not pass the ball short to his back line very often. If Maric is going to hit so many long balls, which seems to be a tactic the Dynamo are using to deploy quick counterattacks, he is going to need to start connecting on more of them. If not, Tab Ramos and the coaching staff may begin to change things up and have their keeper pass the ball to the center backs or fullbacks to spring the long balls.

Overall, Maric’s performance in goal has been what you expect from the Croatian. He has saved 9 of 13 shots on target against him with his post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed slightly in the negative. In simpler terms, he’s playing as an average goalkeeper so far this Major League Soccer season. The good news, the team has four points from three games and the keeper has room for improvement.

What are your thoughts on Marko Maric? Let us know in the comments section below.