Squad Status: Regular Starter
Season in a Sentence: Yarbrough made some exceptional stops last year, but he didn’t make the same match-winning saves that supporters came to expect following 2021.
There’s one elephant in the room that few Colorado Rapids supporters want to address from the 2022 season, and that’s William Yarbrough’s decline.
The ex-León shot-stopper was one of Colorado’s best players in 2021, and made match-winning save after match-winning save as the team rose to the top of the Western Conference. The U.S. International was instrumental in the club’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive setup, and posted top-tier figures in goals against (0.97 per 90, 93rd percentile), save percentage (77.4%, 84th percentile), and defensive actions outside the penalty area (1.42 per 90, 84th percentile) in 2021.
Unfortunately, Yarbrough wasn’t able to sustain that level of play in 2022. During a year that was fraught with individual mistakes and noticeable regression among the team’s core starters, Yarbrough didn’t make the same impact in his third year with the club. According to stats like goals allowed per 90 (0.97 → 1.61), save percentage (77.4% → 70.2%), and defensive actions per 90 (1.42 → 0.78), Yarbrough lagged behind his 2021 standard.
I thought William Yarbrough was one of the best goalkeepers in MLS in 2021, but there's a really easy case to be made that he fell back hard last season. He'll be 34 next season, and has one more guaranteed year with a club option for 2024. pic.twitter.com/8zyEyAGzmE— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) January 8, 2023
The advanced metrics don’t paint a prettier picture. Post-Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed (PSxG-GA), which determines how likely a goalkeeper is to save a given shot, is broadly considered to be one of the best indicators of a shot-stopper’s quality. Stat-heads and number crunchers like it over save percentage and other stats because it accounts for the difficulty of the chances keepers face instead of treating every shot the same. Yarbrough’s per 90 figure of +0.04 in 2021 (61st percentile) generally indicated that he was saving tougher shots on a game-to-game basis than most of the league’s keepers.
That figure fell to -0.15 per 90 in 2022 (33rd percentile), meaning he let in “easier” shots. That’s a near-20% swing in the wrong direction, and brings up startling comparisons to the Galaxy’s Jonathan Bond (-0.17) and Charlotte’s Kristijan Kahlina (-0.12). For comparison, Yarbrough’s 2021 figure landed him in the same tier as Sean Johnson (+0.07), who went on to represent the USMNT in Qatar for the World Cup.
Some of that regression can and should certainly be blamed on Colorado’s defensive line, which didn’t do him any favors last year. But Yarbrough also had his fair share of mishaps. His PSG-xG still says he probably shouldn’t have allowed as many goals in two matches against Minnesota United, the club’s home loss to Nashville, and during the team’s road trip to Frisco. Then, there’s this:
Tyler Pasher with a late equalizer— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) March 20, 2022
In a game of vs , Tyler Pasher and Houston had the last laugh vs MAK and Colorado, as he scored the tying goal in a 1-1 draw vs the Rapids
Here it is. Deft finish in a tight spot
Yarbrough still had his fair share of fantastic stops. He was exceptional between the sticks in home matches against Charlotte and Atlanta. Some of his more impressive saves also went unnoticed because they came in matches where the Rapids were already out-classed—like when he stopped sixteen shots combined across Colorado’s blowout losses against the Galaxy and Union.
While he still has a strong shot-stopping ability, Yarbrough wasn’t a match-saving goalkeeper in 2022 like he was for the club in 2021. If Colorado can clean up their defensive act, then that rising tide should lift Yarbrough’s boat next year. If that doesn’t happen, then the keeper might continue to see the goals pile in.
Yarbrough will be 34 next season, which will be the last year of his guaranteed contract. His $375,000 cap hit didn’t break the bank, but the Rapids probably should think hard about exercising their lone option in his deal if he shows another year of regression.
Now may be a good time to start scouting for a potential challenger to bring aboard, anyway. The Rapids only have two goalkeepers on contract at the moment—Marshall University draft pick Oliver Semmle notwithstanding—and Abraham Rodriguez probably isn’t ready for first team minutes just yet.
Stats via FBref.