MacMath Adjusting Quickly in First Preseason

First round draft pick soaking it all in as pro career begins

Zac MacMath just oozes “goalkeeper.”

The 19-year-old’s demeanor, from the way he walks to the way he carries a conversation, exudes a steely confidence necessary for any netminder.

Philadelphia Union’s first round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft
(fifth overall) is being groomed 
behind Faryd Mondragón to be the club’s future starter. In fact, the Union are so confident in the youngster’s ability
that they released Brad Knighton on Tuesday, who many presumed to be the club’s
number two for the upcoming 2011 campaign.

A week into his first MLS preseason, MacMath is making a quick transition into the pro ranks.

“It’s going well,” the University of Maryland product told “I’m just trying to get integrated with the team and try
to get to know the guys a little bit more. I think everybody is feeling good
and looking forward to getting down to Orlando.”

Prior to the draft, MacMath was vocal about his desire to
play sooner rather than later. Fellow Maryland alumnus and former Union goalkeeper
Chris Seitz appeared to suffer from three years of inactivity behind Nick
Rimando in Salt Lake, failing to meet expectations in Philadelphia.

MacMath, though, has a few factors working in his favor.

Most importantly, the return of the MLS Reserve Division
will afford MacMath up to ten matches this season to stay sharp. Together with
friendlies and Philadelphia’s ability to send players to the Harrisburg City
Islanders for additional seasoning, the technical staff should be able to find
plenty of time for the St. Petersburg, Fl. native.

MacMath’s standing as the first choice option for the U-20 US national team will also benefit his progression. The U-20
World Cup is set for July 29-August 20 in Colombia, offering MacMath a tremendous
opportunity to play meaningful matches in a high-pressure environment.

Then there’s Mondragón’s age. At 39, the veteran goalkeeper won’t
play forever, even though it’s common for ‘keepers to play into their
forties. Two years as Philadelphia’s starter is a reasonable prediction and would
make sense as a transition period from
Mondragón to MacMath. In all likelihood, the Union technical staff
would not have drafted MacMath so high if they expected Mondragón to stick
around for much longer.

In the meantime, MacMath can soak up as much knowledge as
possible from one of the world’s most experienced goalkeepers.

“He can teach me everything,” MacMath said. “I mean, in the
first couple days he has helped me out without goalkeeper stuff and telling me
stories from his career. I have also been helping him a little bit with his
English and trying to get him used to American society.”

Perhaps more so than formal teaching, watching Mondragon in
action will do wonders for MacMath. As will training with the first team at a
pace MacMath has never experienced previously.

“Definitely the jump from college to the pros is a big
difference,” he said. “Just the speed of play, the physicality, and also the
shot speed. We had finishing drills the other day and it was definitely a
change of pace for me. It is just going to take some time to get used to.”

Judging by his form during the first week of preseason
training, it won’t take long for MacMath to feel fully comfortable. There is
always a learning curve for first-year players, especially goalkeepers, but
MacMath is mature beyond his years.

“I’m just trying to get experience,” MacMath said when asked
about his rookie season goals. “I am obviously going to learn a lot from “Mondy”
and I am going to take in all I can get from him. If I get the opportunity to
play a few games, I will obviously take those and try to do my best with them.
Hopefully I can get (to play in) most of the reserve games and get as many
games as I can under my belt and take those into my second year.”

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