Jaime Penedo, shown above playing for Panama in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup final against the United States, is finding success with the LA Galaxy. (Photo: Mexsport)
By Joseph D'Hippolito
CARSON, California -- In a matter of weeks, Jaime Penedo displaced a European veteran as the LA Galaxy's starting goalkeeper.
The Panamanian international signed with the two-time defending United States champion on August 5 after his contract with Guatemala's Municipal expired. He has since made five starts in Major League Soccer, replacing 40-year-old Carlo Cudicini, who joined the club before the season on free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.
"Thus far, he's done a great job of keeping us in games," said Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez. "Hopefully, he can keep it going."
Penedo demonstrated that ability with an acrobatic save in his second league start, a 1-0 road victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps on August 24. The 31-year-old fell out of position after leaping toward Kekuta Manneh's curving 30-yard shot that hit the post. But after Jordan Harvey secured the rebound, Penedo dived across the goal mouth and used his right hand to deflect Harvey's 7-yard shot away from an open net.
Only eight days after helping Panama earn second place in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he was named the tournament's best goalkeeper, Penedo arrived in southern California.
In addition to goalkeeping talents, he has also made a positive impression with his personality.
"He's just a really honest, good guy," commented Gonzalez, a U.S. international who faced Penedo in the Gold Cup final after coming on as an 88th minute substitute. “He's always wondering about how you're doing. He comes up and says, 'Hello' in the morning, which is great to see. That's the kind of guy you want in your locker room."
Though he speaks only a little English, Penedo appreciates any opportunity to talk with his new teammates.
"I'm the kind of person who always wants to try to learn from everybody," said Penedo, a former Arabe Unido standout. "Here, we have players like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and other very good players. I think you have to see the difference, and that's why I try to learn as much as I can from them."
Despite not playing in the Galaxy’s 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) win over Isidro Metapan on Wednesday, Penedo knows that the victory took him closer to a goal he never reached with Municipal: a continental championship.
"I played in this tournament and never got to the second round," expressed Penedo. "But I have a dream of being a champion here with the Galaxy, and in rising to the occasion in a prestigious international tournament."
LA and Penedo can qualify for the CCL’s quarterfinals with at Costa Rica’s Cartagines this Wednesday.