In soccer, it's often said that successful teams have a "spine" of players that play up the middle of the pitch: goalkeeper, center back, center midfielder and striker. Having a solid core to that spine defending your goal is crucial.
For FC Cincinnati's summer friendly opponents RCD Espanyol, goalkeeper Diego López Rodríguez is the bedrock on which the rest of the team’s spine rests.
Over the course of the 36-year-old Spanish keeper's career, Diego López has played at the highest heights of the game. But he got his start in his native Galicia in northwest Spain playing for what was then the modest local third division side, CD Lugo. At 19, he left home to sign for Real Madrid's third team. After a short loan stint at Alcorcón, he was quickly promoted to Madrid's reserve squad. And after helping the Real Madrid B to promotion to the Spanish second division, López was also promoted to the Real Madrid first team as backup to long-time number one ‘keeper Iker Casillas.
After seeing little time behind the legendary Spanish international, López left for La Liga rivals Villarreal CF in 2007 in pursuit of playing time. And it was with the Yellow Submarine that López found his breakthrough. He quickly assumed the starting role and helped guide the small Valencian club to finishes of fifth and seventh in the league during his early years. But when the club was relegated following the 2011-12 campaign, Sevilla brought him in and he split duties during his six-month stay.
But when Casillas was forced out of action in Madrid with a hand injury in January 2013, López moved back to the capital club to man the goal and Casillas, despite his legend and captain status at the club, never regained the starting spot full time. López retained the starting role in league play the rest of the campaign and the majority of next and, together with Casillas, led Real Madrid to its ninth UEFA Champions League title in 2014.
López was again on the move the following season, departing Madrid for Italian giants AC Milan. He spent two seasons at San Siro Stadium battling injury and mentoring Italian prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma before a loan sent him back to Spain in August 2016. His destination? RCD Espanyol.
Since making the move, the veteran goalkeeper has cemented himself as first choice for Los Periquitos. López was named La Liga player of the month just four months into his first season in Barcelona and earned a permanent deal at the club last summer.