Five goalkeepers in Union preseason training means intense battle for roster spot
PHILADELPHIA – Zac MacMath may be firmly entrenched as the team’s starter heading into the 2013 season but it looks like the Philadelphia Union have a serious goalkeeping battle brewing behind him.
So far in training camp, there have been five goalies vying for spots on the club. In addition to MacMath and last season’s backups – Chase Harrison and Chris Konopka – the Union have brought in former University of Virginia standout Diego Restrepo as well as local product Tunde Ogunbiyi.
“We wanted to have four for sure,” Union manager John Hackworth told reporters Tuesday. “Especially with a group as large as we have, we need to have two games in training sessions and we need to have four goals. With Diego Restrepo, it was an opportunity to bring him in and get a look and that was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”
Restrepo certainly has a very good pedigree for a trialist. The 24-year-old graduated from the U-17 Residency Program and earned caps with the US U-17 and U-20 squads, before leading the University of Virginia to a national championship in 2009, smashing several school records previously held by Tony Meola in the process. Restrepo, who was born in Venezuela and lived in Columbia as a kid, played for Colombia’s América de Cali and Venezuela’s Deportivo Táchira over the last two years.
Ogunbiyi, a graduate of nearby Wissahickon High School, played at Boston College and Ocean City F.C of the USL-PDL.
Both players certainly have a chance to make the roster as Konopka is currently nursing an injury and Harrison, who was left unprotected in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, is fighting to reclaim his place on the squad.
“You want to help those guys any way possible,” MacMath said. “Obviously those guys are out of contract and are fighting for a contract. You try to help them and at the same time I’m trying to push myself to the maximum and make myself better throughout the preseason.”
When asked if having a few extra goalies in camp was also meant to push MacMath, Hackworth hedged.
“We do want to push Zac,” the Union manager said. “We want him to know he has to step up this year. But he knows that already. So we’re not really doing that by the number of goalkeepers or anything.”
Whatever the case may be, it certainly hasn’t seemed to faze MacMath, who says he has more confidence now than at any other time since getting drafted by the Union in 2011.
“I feel a lot more comfortable than in past years,” MacMath said. “I hope this is my year to have a breakout year and show that I can be one of the top goalkeepers in the league.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.