Union third-string GK Konopka seizes his opportunity
CHESTER, Pa. – All Chris Konopka needed was an opportunity.
When he finally got one, he wasn’t about to let it slip away. With the Union’s Zac MacMath (concussion symptoms) and Chase Harrison (left ankle sprain) battling injuries, third-string goalkeeper Konopka has started the last two games for the Philadelphia Union, leading them to a 3-0 US Open Cup win over the Rochester Rhinos on Tuesday after making six saves in a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC on Saturday.
“I wanted to show the guys they have nothing to fear if two guys go down,” Konopka said. “Before Chase got injured in Dallas [on May 19], he did the same thing. It’s great that the three goalkeepers have been a little bit of a bright spot for the team this season.”
Before the season began, Konopka predicted that the Union’s goalkeeping trio would shine – a comment that may have been met with some raised eyebrows considering, at that point, the three of them had made a total of just nine MLS appearances between them.
But so far this year, Konopka & Co. have been backing up that statement. After a slow start, MacMath had been sharp in net until getting injured, and Harrison and Konopka both performed admirably when called upon to make spot starts.
“We’re extremely lucky to have three good goalies,” Union center back Sheanon Williams said. “We’ve needed all of them this year. I’m happy to have Chris on our team. He’s definitely deserved his chance and I’m glad he’s doing well so far.”
Konopka has some experience playing in Ireland but until last August, when the Red Bulls plucked him from the MLS reserve goalkeeper pool, he never started an official MLS league game. Saturday’s game in Toronto marked Konopka’s second MLS start and, despite the disappointing 1-0 loss, the New Jersey native held up well while facing an onslaught of shots.
Konokpa had to do less work against a tired and overmatched Rochester side on Tuesday but was still happy to record the shutout, despite a couple of nervous moments early in the contest.
“You have to be patient,” Konopka said. “And when the opportunity comes, you have to seize it. For different players, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been fortunate enough the past two games where I feel like I performed well enough for the coaching staff to be pleased.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.