BALTIMORE – Zac MacMath hasn’t played one minute of professional soccer yet. Nevertheless, he’s already learned a valuable lesson of the highs and lows of being a pro athlete. He learned it from Chris Seitz.
Seitz, of course, was supposed to be the goalkeeper around whom the Philadelphia Union would build their franchise. But the young netminder made too many mistakes in 2010, which led to his departure this offseason.
MacMath, a friend of Seitz’s, will be mindful of that cautionary tale as he tries to become the next young 'keeper the Union use as their cornerstone.
“All goalkeepers feel bad for [Seitz],” MacMath said following his selection by Philadelphia in the first round of last week’s MLS SuperDraft. “He’s a great goalkeeper. He’s proven that before. He still has an unbelievable career ahead of him. I know that. He knows that. Everyone knows that.
“But it does show that I have to be careful and that young goalkeepers can be the target of fan bases and the media, so I’ll talk to him and he’ll give me all the advice that he can to help deal with everything.”
MacMath and Seitz have nearly identical résumés. Both starred for the University of Maryland, where they worked with former Terps assistant coach and current Union goalkeepers coach Rob Vartughian; both gained exposure at the international level; and both were the first 'keepers taken in their respective drafts (Seitz was selected No. 4 overall by Real Salt Lake in 2007, MacMath was picked No. 5 last week).
On hand at the Baltimore Convention Center last Thursday, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski noted the two ex-Terrapin goalkeepers have plenty of similarities, but that MacMath will find himself in a better situation with the Union than Seitz did.
[inline_node:324540]“Chris had some good moments last year, but all people remember are the bad moments,” Cirovski said. “But Chris, unfortunately, had about three years of not playing [with Real Salt Lake], so he was rusty. Zac is not rusty right now. He just finished a very good year for us and he’s playing regularly with the U-20s. Continuity is a very important thing and that’s one thing Chris lacked.”
That said, continuity is not something MacMath will necessarily get in Philadelphia. Union manager Peter Nowak said at the draft that he hopes to keep the first-round pick in a reserve role for at least a season or two.
At the very least, however, MacMath will stay busy as he prepares for the U-20 World Cup in Colombia this summer, perhaps alongside new Union teammates Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney. And if his college coach is to be believed, the U-20 level will only be an international stepping stone for the goalkeeper.
“He’s gonna be a great one,” Cirovski said. “I expect him to be a full US national team player at some point in his career.”
Of course, similar expectations were cast upon Seitz, so MacMath knows things can change in a hurry. Now the question is if this Maryland alum can do what the other Maryland alum could not and stick with the Union for the long-term.
“I’d like to think I’m ready for it but, obviously, I won’t know until it happens,” MacMath said. “I don’t know what might happen in my career, so I might as well start now.”