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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Daniel Vega

Veteran has had a long run, but may have hit end of starter’s days.

Portland Timbers v San Jose Earthquakes Photo by Maciek Gudrymowicz/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Daniel Vega was once again the No. 1 goalkeeper to start the season for the San Jose Earthquakes. By far the most experienced GK on the roster, the Argentine, now 36, was clearly trusted by head coach Matias Almeyda, and after he was the lock-down starter in 2019, he was back in the saddle again.

There’s no doubt Vega had good moments along the way, but after a bumpy debut season in MLS, it didn’t get much better in 2020 in terms of performance and results.

In 2019, San Jose conceded 55 goals, which was sixth-worst in the Western Conference, not great but not an outlier. While the Earthquakes ultimately had a timeshare in goal in 2020, they allowed 51 goals, worst in MLS. In 12 regular season games, Vega allowed 37 of those 51 goals, which was itself more than all but four Western Conference teams across the full season.

Here are Vega’s stats from 2020:

Daniel Vega 2020 Earthquakes Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 12 12 1,080 42 37 3.08 3 17 53 0 0
MiB Knockouts 2 2 180 12 6 3 0 50 67 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 14 14 1,260 54 43 3.07 3 21 56 0 0

Ultimately, after a good MLS is Back Tournament that ended with a tough quarterfinal loss to Minnesota United, the Earthquakes hit a tailspin, going eight games from the local return to play winless. Vega played seven of those games.

Then, with the season seemingly lost, Almeyda finally made the switch to the young homegrown JT Marcinkowski, and that and a few other adjustments led to the season being turned around. To close the season, the Quakes went 6W-3L-1D and against the odds qualified for the playoffs, with the team no longer bleeding goals.

I think Vega is a good pro who is well-liked around the team, but the proof was in the pudding. After a shaky start to his MLS tenure, he found some traction, although the Earthquakes still had a disappointing season. The next year, it was almost the same thing, with a change in goal ultimately helping them to improve their prospects and finish the season overall much stronger.

It seems pretty clear that Marcinkowski should be the starter moving forward, but if he is called up to the U.S. U-23 National Team and they reach the Tokyo Olympics, and if those Olympics take place (a lot of ifs, admittedly), then Vega could get some spot starts along the way in 2021. Is he capable of doing that? Yes, of course. Should he be the No. 1 moving forward? His form just doesn’t justify that, and he should be the experienced backup on hand who can get on the field in an emergency.

I still think there’s a chance Almeyda, who has considerable loyalty to many of his players, will try to give Vega a chance to redeem himself. But I truly can’t see a new outcome if that happens. If Vega was 26, maybe you could see a rebound season. But he’s too inconsistent and gives up too many juicy rebounds off saves at his age to be a reliable starter in MLS, honestly.

Again, I think he works hard and can do a job on the squad. But I think Vega’s starter days are behind him, and in 2021 he should be the bench option for the majority of the season, if everything goes to plan. We’ll see what happens.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.