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San Jose Earthquakes positional preview: Goalkeepers

Running the rule over the squad ahead of the new season.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Atlanta United FC
Will Daniel Vega hold onto the No. 1 in 2020?
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 MLS season less than a month away, let’s take a look at the San Jose Earthquakes roster by positional group.

We start with what seems like the easiest bunch, goalkeepers. But the picture is not necessarily crystal clear, even with this group, heading into the campaign. Let’s take a look at the cohort and project who may be in line to start.

Bear in mind, that teams can still make moves for a few more months, and changes, in or out, could happen. But based on how things are today, here’s how the GK corps stacks up.

Daniel Vega

The starter in 2019, Vega had a season much like the Earthquakes as a whole. He was a newcomer to MLS last year, had been toiling in the lower divisions in the U.S. for a few years. That meant the Argentine didn’t need to acclimate culturally to the United States, but he very much needed to acclimate to MLS.

Vega started the season looking incredibly subpar in goal, with the home loss to LAFC the nadir, the SoCal side repeatedly literally walking past the defense and Vega to score. But Matias Almeyda kept faith in him, and he rebounded to steady out. Vega was likely one of the most polarizing players in MLS last year — in talking about him, I usually heard either “He’s underrated” or “He’s not MLS level,” really nothing in between. But after a rocky start, he did find his sea legs.

The question is whether he continues as the No. 1. It seems like if he’s returned, it’s his position to lose, but at 35 he’s entering the stretch where goalkeepers tend to decline. He may or may not be able to hold off Father Time for awhile, but he enters the season as the presumed starter until we hear otherwise.

Andrew Tarbell

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-San Jose Earthquakes at LAFC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tarbell is in many respects the great mystery on the roster. The starter full time in 2018, he often struggled to convince but you could make a credible case that the morale was so low that year and the defense so unorganized that hardly any goalkeeper would shine in those circumstances.

When Almeyda opted for Vega to be the starter last year, it seemed destined that Tarbell would be traded elsewhere, but that hasn’t happened. At 26, he’s a solid insurance policy, but one of the other backups could realistically be pushing him to be the primary backup. In which case, where does Tarbell go from here? Does he merely need to bide his time before getting another fresh shot? Or is he at a crossroads? Time will tell.

JT Marcinkowski

MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Seemingly the big hope of the Earthquakes system, Marcinkowski is 22, fresh off a U.S. Men’s National Team camp call-up, and very possibly pushing Tarbell to be the backup, if not pushing Vega to be the starter. San Jose traded away another promising young Homegrown goalkeeper, Drake Callendar, with Marcinkowski seemingly the man of the near future for the Quakes. How far away is the near future? Is Marcinkowski still firmly No. 3 on the depth chart? He can probably reasonably sit in that spot another year, but there are very few teams with a No. 3 GK as ready to play as San Jose. We’ll see if Marcinkowski pushes his way in to get some first-team playing time this year, or if he still needs to wait his turn.

Matt Bersano

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The ultra-insurance policy, Bersano has played exclusively on loan at Reno 1868 FC, and with three players with MLS experience all ahead of him on the depth chart, it looks highly unlikely he’ll rise up barring a major crisis. At 27-years-old, Bersano is still developing, but he seems likely to play in Reno yet again in 2020.

Emi Ochoa

Some MLS teams keep four goalkeepers on their roster. The Quakes actually have five, after Emi Ochoa signed in the offseason. Ochoa is 14, and you won’t see him in any competitive games for years, certainly not in 2020, especially with four guys much older than him on the roster already. Expect Ochoa to continue playing for the Quakes academy and training with the first team for the time being.

What do you think? Leave a comment below about these rankings and what the depth chart could and should be in goal in 2020. Let’s chat!