Jorge Vela enters his 14th year at New Mexico as one of the finest assistants and goalkeeper coaches in the country. Vela was appointed as the top assistant upon arriving at UNM in December of 2000. After eight seasons coaching with his wife, Kit, at the University of Southern California and Loyola Marymount, the duo has made an incredible mark on the history of the UNM soccer program.
With Jorge coaching the keepers, the Lobos have established a solid reputation as a veritable goalkeeper factory, and UNM regularly has goalkeepers honored by the Mountain West.
The latest goalkeeper protege has been Kelli Cornell, who was a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. The Lobos have racked up 50 shutouts in the last five years and UNM has recorded a goals against average under 1.00 in each of the last five seasons. Cornell is the winningest keeper in school history.
Most recently, Vela worked his magic with Cornell's backup Cassie Ulrich, who despite not seeing action in a real game for almost 33 months, turned in a brilliant 0.85 goals against average with nine shutouts.
Jorge made an immediate impact in his first season by molding Shelly Hammock into the league's premier goalkeeper. Hammock earned first team all-conference honors for the first time in her career and also became the first goalkeeper in league history to be named MWC Player of the Week, following her 10-save performance in the Lobos' 1-0 shutout win at No. 12 Kentucky on Sept. 30, 2001.
Vela coached four-time MWC honoree Kristen Winters to notable success over her four-year career. In 2002, Winters was named MWC Goalkeeper of the Year and went on to break several records at UNM. She finished her career as the all-time leader for wins with 28 and carries the record for most career shutouts with 25. Under the guidance of Vela, Winters developed into one of the top goalies in the conference and solidified herself as one of the best to come through the Lobos' program. Vela's influence was brought to the forefront in 2006 with the emergence of goalkeeper Shannon Adragna. Adragna earned second team All-MWC honors after recording a 0.80 goals against average, winning eight games and posting six shutouts.
In all, UNM's top three winningest keepers, top three keepers in terms of shutouts, and the top three in goals against average, all played their entire careers under Jorge.
Prior to New Mexico, Vela spent five years as USC's goalkeeper coach after serving as assistant women's soccer coach at Loyola Marymount in 1995. He also spent two seasons (1993-94) as assistant men's soccer coach at Cal State Northridge and Vela coached youth-level boy's and girl's club and high school teams since 1989.
One of the most renowned goalkeeper coaches in the United States, Vela is the director of the Vela Soccer Academy, which has produced some of the finest keepers in America. Vela was an outstanding keeper himself in his native Guatemala.
From 1983 to 1987, he played for Guatemala's Under-20 and Under-23 national teams. Vela also played professionally for four years (1985-88) in his homeland and was a member of the Comunicaciones first division national championship team.
After moving to California, Vela played on the California state Western Regional team and was on the Cal-South Under-23 team that won the 1993 national championship. From 1993 to 1998 he played professionally with the Valley Golden Eagles of the United States Interregional Soccer League.
Vela married Kit Schwartzman in May of 1997. The couple have two children.