Why Leeds United should look to former LA Galaxy star Jaime Penedo to solve their goalkeeping crisis

Leeds United East Stand

The 34-year-old Panama international is currently a free agent after leaving the Galaxy in July.

Leeds United suffered another blow in the goalkeeping department earlier this week, as the promising Charlie Horton left Elland Road just five months after joining the club to return to the USA for personal reasons.

The 21-year-old American, who was the Whites' first summer signing, failed to play a first-team game during his time in Yorkshire, but his departure still leaves a tenuous situation between the posts.

With Ross Turnbull currently sidelined until around February with a broken ankle, Horton had been serving as Marco Silvestri’s backup since mid-October, but the Italian No. 1 now stands alone as the one remaining fit keeper in the senior squad.

Silvestri himself was also criticised for his form under ex-head coach Uwe Rosler at the start of this season, and new boss Steve Evans had intended to bring in competition for the former Chievo man earlier this month until changing his plans due to his recent impressive performances.

Nonetheless, with youngsters Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Eric Grimes now the only available understudies, it would be a significant gamble to head into the hectic festive period without an experienced custodian on the bench.

While time is quickly running out before the emergency loan window closes on Thursday evening, the club still have the option of exploring the free agent market, and there is one under-the-radar name who would be fine addition to the squad.

Panama international Jaime Penedo has been without a club since his shock decision to leave the LA Galaxy by mutual consent in late July over a contract dispute, and he is now reportedly keen to explore European opportunities this winter.

The 34-year-old keeper spent almost two years with the Galaxy after signing from Guatemalan side Municipal in August 2013 and established himself as a firm fan favourite during his time at the StubHub Center, recording 177 saves and 21 clean sheets in 61 MLS appearances.

Considered one of CONCACAF’s best shot-stoppers, the 107-times capped veteran was instrumental in helping Bruce Arena's men win the 2014 MLS Cup, while he was also named the 2013 Gold Cup’s top keeper after starring throughout Panama’s run to the final.

Another impressive set of performances at the 2015 tournament in the summer helped Los Canaleros secure a third-place finish over the USA, and his sudden departure from LA just a few weeks later left a huge hole in the club’s line-up for the rest of the season.

“It's, obviously, probably a shock to everybody,” Galaxy captain and former Leeds striker Robbie Keane told MLSsoccer.com following Penedo’s exit. “But listen, he's been great for the club, and I'd like to wish him well going forward. … He's been a credit to the team.”

The Galaxy ultimately failed to retain their MLS Cup title after suffering a 3-2 playoff defeat at the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Knockout Round last month, when Penedo replacement Donovan Ricketts was at fault for at least two of the home side’s goals.

LA fans have since been calling for the club to re-sign their former No. 1 during the offseason, but he instead looks set to test his skills elsewhere after head coach Arena ruled out a return for him earlier this month.

Whether another North American side comes in for his signature this winter remains to be seen, but the 6ft stopper’s eye-catching displays for both club and country as recently as the summer suggest that he would also be a solid signing for a team across the Atlantic like Leeds.

With his vast experience and Spanish passport to negate work permit issues, the former MLS star would prove an excellent low-cost option to back-up Silvestri until at least Turnbull returns to full fitness, and he could even push the present incumbent for the starting job if his form dips again over the coming months.

On top of that, Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino has signed him once before during his time as Cagliari owner in 2005, although the well-travelled Panamanian failed to make an appearance for the Italian club before departing for then La Liga side Osasuna in 2006.

Regardless, on a deal for the rest of the 2015-16 campaign and perhaps longer if he makes a good impression, the Championship club could do a lot worse than look to “San Penedo” to help solve their keeping crisis.

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