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Roman Celentano Continues to Improve with Each Passing Week, and Has Pushed Himself to be a Top Goalkeeper League Wide

June 6, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
FC Cincinnati News Release

It may come as a shock (to some) to learn that in the lifespan of his soccer career, FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano is still very much in his early days. Celentano, a native of Naperville, Illinois and alumni of Indiana University, only started his keeper journey in high school, joining his high school team with very little lower-level training.

Three years later, he took the starting job at IU as a freshman, and three years later, he was drafted by FC Cincinnati in the MLS SuperDraft and seized the starting job soon thereafter.

In the span of (roughly) seven years, Celentano has gone from not being a competitive soccer player to one of the most exciting and high-potential American goalkeepers in the world. He's been a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, has been called into national team camps, and is routinely cited by national media as a player who should be considered for major tournament selection.

Celentano is off to a hot start in the 2024 season despite missing four games due to injury in the middle of his 12 starts this season. Celentano is third in clean sheets with five despite five fewer starts than the leading duo of Kristijan Kahlina and Hugo Lloris; he is first in save percentage with 82.1 percent, has conceded the fewest goals per 90 with 0.83, and has been the best shot-stopping keeper in the league this season with Post Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed (cleverly shortened by the analytical types to PSxG+/-) of positive 3.2.

It was a goal this year for Celentano to continue building on his successful 2023, a season in which he started 33 of 34 matches in the Supporters' Shield-winning effort and established himself as not only one of the 'young' stars in the league but also as one of the de facto star goalkeepers in MLS.

"He's definitely matured. The experience of last year, being a starting goalkeeper for a winning organization has really propelled him forward and I think you can see it in his performances," defender Matt Miazga said of Celentano's development this season. "The maturity he displays now, the decision making he has... I think the numbers speak for themselves."

"You can trust him to make a save," Nick Hagglund said of the keeper. "If you're nervous that your goalkeepers are not going to make a save, you're going to be hesitant to make a move. So I feel like knowing Roman's back there gives us confidence to play the way that we were meant to play and feel confident in our ability to defend."

Celentano has been the anchor of a defense that has led MLS for most of the season. With essentially an entirely new defensive combination in front of him for the 2024 campaign, Roman's work (obviously alongside roster mainstays like Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund, Ian Murphy and others) to integrate and inform the newcomers all over the field has been perhaps the more impressive feat than his already top-class quality shot-stopping.

Teammates, new and old, have highlighted the 23-year-old's communication skills on the field as one of the more underrated parts of his game.

"We have the pieces on the field to make sure we're covered," Celentano said after a win over Atlanta. "So all I have to do is make sure guys are in the right I just have to tell them what we need, and these guys all listen, they understand and have the talent to execute. It's a testament to this group that I only have to talk, and they execute."

"Each game we're getting better...."

The steady improvement seen over the last three years is contextualized by Celentano's late start to the game. While he is already at an elite level in MLS and clearly one of the top goalkeepers in the league based on his Goalkeeper of the Year Finalist place last year, there is still an untapped level Celentano is working to achieve.

Celentano, along with several of his teammates, is now up to be voted to the 2024 MLS All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, later this summer, when the league stars take on the stars of Liga MX. After not being named to the All-Star team for 2023 despite a deserving resume, Celentano is again in the mix to be named to the league's midseason top squad.

After the most recent round of voting, though, Celentano was revealed to be fourth in fan voting among goalkeepers behind Matt Freese (New York City FC), Kristijan Kahlina (Charlotte FC), Hugo Lloris (LAFC) but is still very much in contention given fan voting is a.) not yet completed and b.) accounts for one-third of the contributions to the 12 voted in players.

For the MLS All-Star rosters, 12 players will be selected by combining fan, media, and MLS players voting. Coach Wilfried Nancy of hosts Columbus Crew will select 12 more players, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber will select the final two.

With voting ending on June 11 at 2:59 ET (midnight on the West Coast), the window of opportunity to send Celentano to the All-Star game is closing.

Click here to vote for Celentano and all members of the FC Cincinnati contingent, including Luciano Acosta (who leads attacking midfielders in votes), Miles Robinson and Matt Miazga (who rank first and third in center backs), and Luca Orellano and DeAndre Yedlin (who both rank second at their individual positions).

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