Daniel Vega has played 46 of the San Jose Earthquakes’ last 47 MLS regular-season games, the veteran Argentine one of Matias Almeyda’s first names on the team sheet.
But is it time to make a permanent change at goalkeeper?
Vega has made 42 saves and allowed 37 goals in 12 league games this year. Read that sentence again. It’s a truly eye-watering number.
The 36-year-old is not the only reason the Earthquakes have dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference, winless in eight regular-season games, and by no means should he be considered the main scapegoat. However, if a change is needed and the team is constrained by outside factors or their own desires, then replacing Vega, likely with JT Marcinkowski waiting patiently in the wings, is a logical change.
If you consider:
- Almeyda will not be changing his tactical approach, even through this brutal stretch of record losses
- The team will not be going on a buying spree — arguably at this point in the season, the team could use reinforcements, certainly, but those player(s) would not transform the team right now anyway
- The defense is wracked by injuries, for who knows how long
- The team continues to carry four goalkeepers on the roster, something most teams in MLS don’t do
- Vega has not been playing great anyway...
...then the one immediate change that can be made at this point is benching Vega. Again, he’s not the sole culprit, with defensive injuries and general frailties in front of him certainly contributing to lopsided losses, but at this point, what’s the upside to keeping him in the lineup?
One habit Vega has that can be very costly is that at times when he makes saves, he leaves a rebound that opponents can pounce upon to score. Most recently, this happened last week against the Portland Timbers.
This is not the first time he’s done this exact mistake.
Again, it’s worth noting San Jose’s defense has done Vega no favors. I don’t think putting Marcinkowski in as the permanent starter will completely transform the Earthquakes’ fortunes and turn losses into wins, especially if they’re conceding 5+ goals a game at this point.
But if Vega is 36, he’s a streaky player and he’s currently stuck in a slump along with his team, it makes sense to make Marcinkowski the starter. The reason for the team is twofold — if Marcinkowski turns out to be an immediate upgrade, then that certainly helps San Jose. And if he also has shaky moments, it makes more sense to let him take his lumps now than in a fresh season with raised expectations, right?
By all accounts, Vega has been a great pro and leader for the Earthquakes, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But if the Earthquakes are not going to change their tactics, not going to change their roster, then the options to make changes that could improve their lot become very limited. In that context, removing Vega as starter is one of the few possible changes, and deserved or not, it seems like now is the time it needs to happen.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.