Two men have really been the men between the sticks for San Antonio FC since day one, Diego Restrepo and Matt Cardone. After the two played against each other for the first time since being at SAFC together this seems like an appropriate time to tackle the comparison of the two players. Cardone got the win on Wednesday but that’s a one off, so we can compare the two keepers on a season-by-season basis looking at some key statistics from 2017 to this season.
2017: Restrepo Goalkeeper of the Year, Cardone career best save percentage (88.9%)
In 2017 it’s hard to go past Restrepo being the stronger of the two keepers given he was awarded the Goalkeeper of the year award by the league office, including getting a vote from me. With a 76.5 percent save percentage and 12 clean sheets, Restrepo was almost unbeatable in 2017. One thing that stands out from this season was that Cardone actually did well in making saves, managing an unparalleled 88.9 percent save percentage, well ahead of Restrepo and a big increase from 2016 when he managed 70% (that stat is before USL partnered with Opta’s full analysis so may not be fully accurate). It is clear that in 2017 the two keepers pushed each other to be better, as demonstrated by this being the best season for each keeper.
2018: Just five clean sheets between them but with impressive distribution
It’s hard to go past the 2017 season and 2018 was always bound to be a down on that year. That was clear when the two keepers only managed five clean sheets between them (Restrepo with four). Both keepers saw their save percentages drop, Restrepo managing 71.2 percent while Cardone was a fairly poor 67.3. Where the two both did well (although still down on 2017) was distribution with Restrepo managing a 65.8 percent passing completion and Cardone managing 64.2. It was a down year but Restrepo won in every statistic, as should be expected from the goalkeeper that started the season as the number one.
2019: Different Teams, coming off the line
In 2019 the two players find themselves on different teams, and have been the starters for their clubs in the Queso Bowl derby. What has been most apparent is that the game is different this season than compared to the last two is the necessity to get off the line and gather crosses. The best stat that shows this is the number of catches made by each keeper. Restrepo has made 17 while Cardone has been perhaps a little quicker off his line making 19. The key statistic for any goalkeeper has to be saves and in this case Restrepo has the lead with a 73 percentage rate while Cardone has just a 67.1 rate. One statistic where Cardone is excelling is his distribution, managing a 66.3 percent passing accuracy while Restrepo is at just 53.7.
So what does this all mean? What isn’t surprising is that by most measures Restrepo is statistically the better keeper, he has a stronger save percentage in every year and that is really the stat goalkeepers need to be judged on. But that’s never been Cardone’s strength, even at Trinity it wasn’t his in-play shot stopping that made him a good keeper. Cardone has two main strengths, his ability to stop a penalty and his ability to distribute the ball. In the modern game being able to distribute the ball as a goalkeeper is a crucial skill, the goalkeeper is often launching attacks and is not a purely defensive player any more. That’s a big strength for Cardone, and always has been, with a stronger defense in front of him Cardone’s weaknesses could be salvaged but unfortunately that’s not what’s happening this season and it’s hard to make an argument for him being on the whole the stronger keeper.