Pepe Miranda finally got his chance in 2015.
The goalkeeper, who defected from Cuba in 2008, paid his dues in American soccer for a number of years before seeming to settle as one of several Orange County Blues keepers who got minutes in 2014. But a year later, under a new coach, the veteran became the No. 1 for the first time in USL.
And the numbers are pretty good. He was in the Top 10 in the league in all the major goalkeeping stats categories, and he helped the Blues to their best-ever season, capped off with a first place finish in the Western Conference. It seemed everything finally came together for him, who only missed a few games over the course of the season due to injury or suspension, and who was no longer part of the revolving door in goal for OC.
Here were Miranda's statistics in 2015:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Saves||Save %||Goals Allowed||GAA||Wins||Shutouts|
|USL Regular Season||25||25||2,268||86||73.5||31||1.24||12||8|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||90||N/A||N/A||2||2.00||0||0|
Now, the question is whether the 29-year-old is a good goalkeeper. Of course he is, he emerged as the starter on a good defensive team. But was he one of the best in USL?
That's a much tougher question. While the very top end of American goalkeepers are maybe not being produced at the same level and rate of the heyday of Friedel/Keller/Howard, etc., the lower ranks are still filled with very good 'keepers. USL is chock full of good prospects who with a a bit of luck could end up in MLS and even start. As a 29-year-old, the ship has most likely sailed for Miranda on the MLS front, but that shouldn't take away from what he can do.
If I were to nitpick, I'd say Miranda isn't entirely commanding as a goalkeeper. He's solid, no question, but very much in the middle tier of GKs in USL. He won't lose games for a team, but he's not going to stand on his head to win games, either. Just very steady, not spectacular.
With that in mind, I am not entirely surprised the Blues went out and signed USL Goalkeeper of the Year Brandon Miller from the Rochester Rhinos for 2016. Miller had the league's best defense in front of him, so it will be interesting to see if his 2015 season was a blip or if he is really a great prospect for the big leagues. At any rate, with Miller signing, it seems that barring an injury the newcomer is going to be Oliver Wyss' No. 1 this coming season.
What that means for Miranda is a mystery. Will he turn to a reserve role, or will he look to try his prospects elsewhere? With USL expanding again this year, he could find more opportunities, perhaps even one to start, this year. It's a tough break for a player who waited for his chance, got it, performed well, and then had to deal with a new competitor. Overall, it's probably the right call for the Blues if they want to win a trophy, but that shouldn't detract from what Pepe Miranda was able to accomplish in 2015, as he enjoyed a career year.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!