Kerith Gabriel: MacMath part of young goalie movement

Union's Zac MacMath, shown blocking a shot on Vancouver's Sebastien Le Toux, is one of several up-and-coming young goalies in the soccer world.
Union's Zac MacMath, shown blocking a shot on Vancouver's Sebastien Le Toux, is one of several up-and-coming young goalies in the soccer world. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: April 06, 2012

David de Gea. Joe Hart.

Zac MacMath.

OK, now before you go telling me to pump the brakes on the last goalkeeper, the Union variety does have something in common with the other two.

All three are quietly debunking the myth that to be a successful goalkeeper you need to be older and more experienced.

The days of the Peter Schmeichels, Oliver Kahns and Kasey Kellers of the soccer world are not a thing of the past in fact, quite the contrary. Older keepers are still proving that experience over the long haul is better between the posts. Let's even stay in MLS and take Vancouver's Joe Cannon for instance. Cannon, 37, is tops in MLS with a goals against average stuck at 0.00. FC Dallas' Kevin Hartman, 37, is still at the top of his game - a game that made Hartman a three-time MLS All-Star and goalkeeper of the year - and one that has kept former Union keeper Chris Seitz with the reserves.

Kasey Keller, 42, who retired last season after a 22-year pro career, will go down as one of the best to play for the U.S. national team, and his fellow countryman Brad Friedel, 40, is still enjoying success in the English Premier League, leading Tottenham to what looks to be another berth into UEFA Champions League play next season.

Not disputing that.

But what is hard to argue is that while it has come with some lumps, the younger generation is putting down roots as well. De Gea, 21, will be in the driver's seat as Manchester United races for a 20th league title; Hart, 24, is arguably England's best choice at the position and has kept Manchester City on the heels of town rival United. And though the record doesn't reflect it, MacMath, 20, has shown surprising poise in his first full season at the Union's helm.

Correlation? All under age 25 and all doing big things for their respective clubs.

"Zac has a lot of poise you just can't teach to a 20-year-old kid," said Union goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian. "He's a product of the environment in the sense that he's competed with the highest programs in our country since he was 15 years old. He's played on [U.S.] youth national teams and having the pedigree and the experience of national competition goes a long way."

For MacMath, that knowledge has thrust him center stage this season, and as long as he remains healthy, it appears the technical staff will stick with him. In earning his first shutout of the season in last Saturday's scoreless draw against Vancouver, MacMath may have just added a few more hairs to his chest.

"I know what it takes to win and I want my teammates and the fans to know that whenever I am out there, it's business," MacMath said. "I hate to lose. It's something that you never get used to as a professional. We have a team that can get back on track and we plan to take this [bye] week to assess where we are and use the Columbus game as a fresh start to the season. It starts with me and my defense."

There are at times however, while lying in wait, the kid in him does come out.

"I mean I can't lie, it's still kind of surreal to me," continued MacMath. "Sometimes I do take a look back and realize that 'wow, this is my job, this is how I make a living.' It really is my dream come true. But on game days it's all about the game, you can't be a starstruck kid, you have to be professional and that's how I carry myself."

Coaches will tell you it's as much about confidence as it is experience when playing the position of goalkeeper. And while MacMath is still earning his stripes in the latter, he clearly has the former - which in itself goes a long way.

SOLID CORE:

Peter Nowak said in his weekly presser that you have to have a core to build around to be a success on game day. Who is that core? Right now, the Union manager believes that eight players are the bark of his "tree." Can you guess the eight? Answers further down in this report . . .

THIS WEEK IN FIFA:

Anti-corruption advisor Alexandra Wrage and Swiss law professor Mark Pieth are trying their best to clean up soccer's governing body, but it appears the efforts of a 13-member team spearheaded by the pair have come up empty, according to an Associated Press report. Despite working at "lightning speed" to present FIFA's executive committee with the first phase of reform proposals, Wrage said FIFA shrugged off many of the suggestions, saying it intended to focus on them in 2013.

One issue the anticorruption team targeted for greater transparency was the length of time members of the 208-person committee have in power. Nixed. Also, a closer look at FIFA's advertising revenue, worth $1 billion annually. Yeah, right, said FIFA.

Still Wrage believes the reform work is proceeding as planned, despite it hitting what appears to be a brick wall.

"I know there is a lot of cynicism, and I share some of that," Wrage said. "Although, I think things are going as well as they can at this point."

So in summation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his team gave the thumbs up to less reforms in regards to stopping rampant bribery and scandal, which Blatter himself pledged to eradicate if re-elected last year.

Yeah, sounds like things are going swimmingly . . . with the fishes.

CORE ANSWERS:

If you guessed Zac MacMath, Danny Califf, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Gomez, Brian Carroll, Lionard Pajoy and Keon Daniel as the eight possibles, you and Nowak share the same brain. Oh, and names are listed in no particular order.

NEXT FIVE:

The Union get a brief hiatus before tackling five league matches that could easy bump the team out of the Eastern Conference basement and into the, well, mezzanine.

VS. COLUMBUS CREW

When: Saturday, April 14, 3:30 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester

TV: NBC Sports Network

Last time out: A Sebastien Le Toux goal scored 7 minutes in stood up at PPL Park as the Union picked up its first win in over 2 months.

AT CHIVAS USA

When: Saturday, April 21, 10:30 p.m.

Where: Home Depot Center, Carson Calif.

TV: The Comcast Network

Last time out: Justin Mapp scored in the 59th minute as the Union escaped HDC with a 1-1 draw against Chivas, one of the few times the Union was able to return to PPL Park with points from a West Coast trip.

VS. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

When: Saturday, April 28, 7 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Last time out: The Union came away from this one scoreless at San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium, (yes, named after the former Eagles coach and a San Jose legend), but a dominant display allowed the Union to capture another point out West and move back into first place in the East over rival New York.

AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

When: Saturday, May 5, 4 p.m.

Where: Century Link Field, Seattle

TV: NBC Sports Network

Last time out: Freddy Adu notched his second goal for the Union in the 60th minute and Brian Carroll followed 10 minutes later as the Union came away from the Pacific Northwest with a 2-0 win, its second win in three matches which provided a two-point edge over Sporting Kansas City for top spot in the East.

VS. RED BULL NEW YORK

When: Sunday, May 13, 1:30 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester

TV: ESPN2

Last time out: In its final regular-season game, which was nationally televised on ESPN2, the Union lost, 1-0, at Red Bull Arena. However, Zach Pfeffer earned a start and Amobi Okugo was dominant in a holding mid role, but the scoreline doesn't reflect a night in which RBNY dominated from start to finish.

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