Nashville SC’s third keeper is here! The Boys in Gold signed recent University of Albany graduate Danny Vitiello after an invite-only tryout in December. Vitiello is relatively old for a college kid, having redshirted as a true freshman and then played out all four years of his eligibility. Given that keepers can play well into their 30s, and that he’s likely a developmental player whose long-term future is not at Nashville SC, there aren’t concerns about that age.
His fifth year did not go so hot individually (No. 131 in the country with a save percentage of .713, as Albany finished No. 115 of 206 teams in the RPI), but as a junior he was No. 3 in the country (.879), he was No. 61 with a .773 as a sophomore, and as a redshirt freshman No. 48 at .787.
You may have some concerns that he didn’t peak as a senior, but as is often the case in college athletics, you can bet a lot of that is more tied to team success than it is to Vitiello’s individual performances, and… yep: this was the first year of his career they were sub-.500, and his team’s goals-for was among the weaker of his time in college. Certainly if he’d hit his junior-year mark, his team would have given up 13 fewer goals and probably been much better, but I’d take it as a team slump, rather than an individual one.
“Danny is a big, athletic, goalkeeper who’s enjoyed a lot of success at the club and high school level,” said Albany coach Trevor Gorman to the Danes’ website. “He has a number of positive qualities that have helped him play a major role in his team’s success.”
Vitiello also played in four PDL (now USL League Two) games with the Long Island Roughriders, playing every minute between the pipes in each. Only three of them have stats available, but his four goals allowed and 11 saves made in those contests are good for a .733 mark, about in line with his college numbers. He contributed in their US Open Cup games as well, though the stats from those games are often lost to the wilderness.
Further into the past, he comes from a Massapequa (N.Y.) program that is a powerhouse on Long Island, and Technical Director Mike Jacobs’s connections back to his home state (including as a former Rough Riders assistant coach) may have played a role in uncovering Vitiello.
To the film!
At 6-2, 185, he’s not the tall, long intimidator that you often think of pro goalkeepers being. However, he certainly has adequate size for the position, and guys have been very successful despite much smaller frames.
He doesn’t have freaky-instant reactions to shots (that’s what separates a guy like Connor Sparrow in terms of being a top-flight pro prospect), but they’re more than adequate, and he tracks the ball very well once it leaves the defender’s foot. That allows him to be in position either way, and he’s athletic enough to cover both posts unless the ball is absolutely blasted. He can react to the ball in flight even when his dive doesn’t take him directly to it. He also seems to do a good job organizing his defense to make sure he gets a good look at opposing strikes, allowing himself the most possible time to react.
He’s extremely comfortable coming off his line (to the degree that you might describe his style as “daring” or “risky”). That even manifests itself on penalty kicks – he saves a lot of them – where he moves forward to cut down angles. He tends to leave his line early on PKs too, but if you get away with it, too bad for the opposition. On breakaways, he likes to come out, but can settle back between his posts if that’s what he feels he needs to do in order to give himself the best chance at a save. He’s very willing to step up and deal with crosses, as well.
He has a reasonably big leg to distribute long (the sort of style Nashville SC will maintain through the USL days, most likely, even if the long-term future is more possession-based when the transition to MLS is made). His composure on the ball when leaving his box on attempted long service in behind his defense – or when the ball is played back by a teammate – is good, but could use a bit of work.
The main drawback to his game from my perspective is that he doesn’t handle the ball well. You can’t expect a keeper to reel in the ball on every save, but basically all of his stops are punches, and not enough of them clear the box or get out of bounds: he’s leaving a lot of rebounds available for either his defenders to deal with or the opponent to get a second chance. Fortunately, that’s the sort of thing that is among the most coachable, and at the very least he can learn to place them in less dangerous positions, if not corral them.
All-in-all, he’s a good third keeper prospect, and one who will benefit from the coaching and observing he’ll have available on a team with an MLS vet like Matt Pickens on the roster (and the coaching staff). There are a couple areas of his game that can take big steps forward with more reps at a high level and some coaching points. There are others (size, reaction time) that are potentially limiting in the long-term.