San Diego’s goalkeeper is doing what he can to save the Loyal
The season’s midpoint is approaching this next month, and the Loyal is in third place in the Western Conference. They sit comfortably with 20 points on the season but have not won a match since April 30.
That match was important, as it came against a very good Tampa Bay Rowdies team on the road. However, it’s been almost a month, and the Loyal are winless, losing two matches. They also finished in a draw with New Mexico United. Though, The team did lose out on a chance when their match against Colorado Springs got postponed.
Offense has been the biggest factor for the Loyal this season with 23 goals, tied for third in the USL Championship. Although, on the other side of the pitch stands a man who is starting to get comfortable. Koke Vegas is one of the league’s top young keepers. The 26-year-old is in his first stint with the team and has started in all but just two matches for the Loyal this season.
Vegas is the native of Antequera, Spain, which is where he got his professional start at 16 years old. Just a few years later, he worked his way up to RCD Espanyol B. In 2016, the keeper found his way to La Liga’s Levante U.D., where he made six appearances throughout five years.
His experience is paying off for the Loyal through 11 matches this season. Vegas has saved 23 attempts, which puts him in sole possession of 12th place in the USL. However, if you look at it from another angle, the Loyal are 9th in goals conceded with 19. The team is playing well, but they have just a (+4) goal difference on the season.
Five of those 19 goals were allowed from backup keeper Austin Guerrero when the Loyal lost to Louisville City 5-2 at home. So Vegas has allowed just 14 goals in 10 USL matches played. Vegas has just one clean sheet on the season, but one more would put him into the top-12.
The statistics show that Vegas is playing well this season. It’s his first time playing in the U.S., so it’s taking some time to adjust. But the former La Liga keeper should start to find his rhythm with the team.
He’s been starting a majority go the matches, and that is the right call. SD native Guerrero is a fan favorite, but the team is in better hands with Vegas as the primary keeper. Guerrero, however, did a fantastic job of taking over for Trey Muse last season when muse ended the season with a fractured thumb.
It’s only a matter of time until Vegas is getting real USL recognition. Vegas is 6-foot-2 with great size and ability to see the ball well. He’s saved a lot of tough shots this season, and the highlights are only getting started.
Just this past weekend, Vegas saved the match at the time with a diving save on a penalty attempt.
Koke niega a un toro. ¡Grande portero! 🕺🏻 pic.twitter.com/CSMa0Qy6RY
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) May 23, 2022
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The Loyal would go on to lose the match 2-1, but Vegas kept them in it and gave them a chance to win late in the second half. The two goals conceded by the Loyal in the loss to RGV were great attempts by the Toros, and there wasn’t much Vegas could do. The winner from the Toros was a pinball shot that could have and should have been cleared. Vegas was not to blame for that result.
Despite the Loyal’s lack of success in the last three weeks, the team is still on track to make a postseason run once again. There is still a long way to go this season. Vegas will be a huge part of it and don’t be surprised if we see more clean sheets from the young keeper this season.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.