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11 Goalkeepers to Watch in the USL Championship this season

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/06/23, 10:00AM EST


Last year’s standouts, and those looking to level up, make up the key shot-stoppers in the league this season

San Antonio FC's Jordan Farr, Louisville City FC's Kyle Morton and Monterey Bay F.C.'s Antony Siaha are among the goalkeepers to keep a close eye on in the 2023 USL Championship season.

There’s nothing that will feel more reassuring for a team – or a fanbase – than having someone you know you can rely on as your last line of defense.

The most recent USL Championship season saw new faces emerge, and others hit new heights in their careers, led by Championship Goalkeeper of the Year and league title winner Jordan Farr at San Antonio FC.

As we kick off our series on potentially key players in this USL Championship season, this isn’t a definitive list of the Best 11 goalkeepers in the league, but they are almost certain to be pivotal to their club’s chances of success this season.

Jordan Farr, San Antonio FC

You might have forgot, but at the start of the 2022 season, Jordan Farr wasn’t at the top of San Antonio FC’s goalkeeping depth chart. Then, after the early-season retirement of Cristian Bonilla, the Oregon native grabbed his opportunity with both hands. Equaling the Championship’s single-season record with 15 clean sheets and claiming the Goalkeeper of the Year award, Farr was a key piece in San Antonio claiming its first league title. Now he’ll be aiming to cement his place as one of the top goalkeepers in the league and help SAFC on the way to more silverware.

Kyle Morton, Louisville City FC

A new arrival for the 2022 season, Kyle Morton ticked every box when it came to upgrading Louisville City FC’s goalkeeping. The veteran won the Golden Glove with a 0.74 goals-against average and was voted to the Championship All-League Team for the first time, delivering a career-high in appearances (28) and minutes played (2,439), equaling his individual regular-season high with 13 shutouts. A late-season injury saw Morton sidelined as understudy Danny Faundez stole the show in the playoffs, and that could lead to a little intrigue going into the new campaign. Morton’s consistency figures to keep him as the No. 1 when available, but the competition in LouCity’s goalkeeping corps will be something to watch moving forward.

Yannik Oettl, Indy Eleven

It might have flown under the radar a little big, but Yannik Oettl put in one of the more consistent goalkeeping performances among regular starters a season ago for Hartford Athletic. His save percentage (71.2%) and total saves (74) both ranked in the Top 10 of goalkeepers who made at least 17 appearances in the regular season, and on top of that he allowed only 30 goals on an Expected Goals on Target Conceded mark of 31.3. That’s not bad for a first full professional season, but now the pressure on the 26-year-old will ramp up as he arrives at an Indy Eleven side with high expectations this season. There’s no flying under the radar anymore for the Munich native, and we’ll see how he fares.

Rocco Rios Novo, Phoenix Rising FC

With his age (20) and pedigree (Argentine U-17 international starter), Rocco Rios Novo remains one of the most intriguing goalkeepers in the USL Championship. As he lands at Phoenix Rising FC this season on loan from Lanus, however, it’s time for the Los Angeles native to start putting up numbers that equate to that potential. Over the past two seasons with Atlanta United 2, Rios Novo has posted only one shutout in 22 appearances, a 63.8 save percentage and a 2.09 goals-against average. You can attribute some of that to Atlanta’s organizational challenges – last season, Rios Novo actually recorded two shutouts in 27 MLS appearances, while posting a 59.7 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against average – but with Rising FC the expectations are going to be to deliver at a high level as the club looks to re-establish itself in the Western Conference’s pecking order.

Antony Siaha, Monterey Bay F.C.

When Antony Siaha made his professional debut last July 9, it could have felt like a roll of the dice by Head Coach Frank Yallop in an inaugural season for Monterey Bay F.C. that had seen more downs than ups to that point. The resulting shutout of Orange County SC began a remarkable run of five consecutive clean sheets for the side that cemented Siaha in his new role, and made him a clear No. 1 for the first time going into an offseason. The 6-foot-5 shot-stopper is now going to have to prove he can replicate his initial success over a full season, with Siaha having posted a 1.00 goals-against average and save percentage of 73 percent last season. If those numbers hold, MBFC is likely to be a playoff contender.

Connor Sparrow, Tampa Bay Rowdies

For a few years, Connor Sparrow seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in Major League Soccer, first at Real Salt Lake and then as he joined Nashville SC for its final season in the Championship before moving into the top flight. That didn’t quite happen for the St. Louis, Mo. native, but instead he’s become one of the top goalkeepers in the Championship. Only once since the start of the 2017 season has Sparrow’s season-long save percentage dipped below 70 percent, and last year he recorded shutouts in more than 50 percent of his appearances – 12 in 23 games for Miami FC. As he moves up the state to join the Rowdies, Sparrow’s pedigree should fit right in for a side once again on then hunt for silverware.

Nathan Steinwascher, Detroit City FC

A local legend, Nathan Steinwascher quickly showed he belonged among the USL Championship’s elite during Le Rouge’s first season in the league with strong all-around numbers and some highlight-reel moments. The 30-year-old conceded only 29 times on an Expected Goals on Target mark of 37.04xGoT according to Opta, putting him among the best in the league, while also tying for third in the league with 12 shutouts and fourth on 92 regular season saves. Now a new dad and with a new contract in hand, Steinwascher will be expected to deliver again as Detroit City aims for a second consecutive place in the postseason.

Alex Tambakis, New Mexico United

It’s been a gradual climb, but Alex Tambakis will enter the 2023 season ranking second in the USL Championship’s regular season for appearances by a goalkeeper and saves, with the potential that he could overtake current leader in both categories, Evan Newton, sooner rather than later. What the Greek shot-stopper hasn’t got yet, though, is a year he can point to as a peak for his career. Tambakis has yet to record double-digit shutouts in a campaign, and has only once posted a save percentage over 70 percent – a 75.2% mark for North Carolina FC in 2019. As consistent as the 30-year-old has been over the years, the time is now for both him and United to find another level and contend for silverware. 

Koke Vegas, San Diego Loyal SC

There were without question some highlight reel moments for Koke Vegas in his first season at San Diego Loyal SC. That challenge for the Spanish newcomer – which ended up abetting SD Loyal’s late-season downfall – was finding a level of consistency throughout the campaign. The most telling of Vegas’ numbers were his goals conceded (44) compared to his Expected Goals on Target Conceded (37.81), a sign that there were more soft goals that should have been kept out than the side should have desired. That resulted in a 1.51 goals-against average – more than twice the mark of Golden Glove winner Kyle Morton of Louisville City FC – and a save percentage of 62.7 percent. If San Diego is to be the contender many think it will be, Vegas is going to have to raise his level accordingly.

Danny Vitiello, Sacramento Republic FC

It’s going to be hard to forget the heroics Danny Vitiello delivered during Sacramento Republic FC’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup a season ago, but the shot-stopper delivered a stellar overall first campaign in the club’s colors with one major caveat. As in his final season with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Vitiello’s errors stood out, resulting in four goals on five shots conceded according to Opta. Even with that, though, Vitiello posted his best individual save percentage in a regular season (73.4%), allowed only 21 goals on an Expected Goals on Target Conceded mark of 25.3, and notched a 0.91 goals-against average with seven shutouts in 23 regular season appearances. If he can cut down on key errors, the 26-year-old could vault into Golden Glove and All-League contention very quickly.

Adrian Zendejas, Miami FC

Miami FC was one of the best defensive sides in the Championship a season ago, allowing only 32 goals in the regular season as former goalkeeper Connor Sparrow posted 12 of the club’s 17 shutouts – a mark that equaled San Antonio FC for the most in the regular season and tied the league’s single-season record. With Sparrow headed north to Tampa Bay for the new season, Miami added an experienced pair of hands to its goalkeeping corps with Adrian Zendejas coming in on loan from Charlotte FC for the new season. The 27-year-old has prior Championship success – he helped Sporting Kansas City II reach the Championship Final in 2016 and 2017 – and last year was solid for the Charlotte Independence in League One. As Miami looks for a breakthrough season, Zendejas can maintain the standard between the sticks for Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ squad.

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