FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Playing time for young and talented goalkeepers in MLS is difficult to predict. While some like Stefan Frei, Sean Johnson or Bill Hamid have been handed playing time very early on in their careers, others like Chris Seitz have had to wait for a few years before getting their shot.
Zac MacMath, one of 10 Generation adidas signings and a goalie from the University of Maryland, hopes to catch on quick with whichever team drafts him on Thursday.
“I really want to go to a team that gives me an opportunity to see the playing field,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I just want the opportunity at least to try and play and hopefully establish myself as a No. 1 guy.”
Playing time this year will be critical for MacMath, who hopes to represent the US U-20 team at the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in April, and then the U-20 World Cup later in the summer.
If he can’t land the starting role right away – which would be a tall task – the re-establishment of the reserve division will be vital in keeping him sharp to help him hang on to his starting role with the U-20s.
“[The reserve division] definitely helps my opportunity to play more because I’m going to need games going into qualifying and the World Cup later on,” he said.
There is no secret method to bringing along and developing young and talented goalies, even those who have spent time with a US youth national team setup like MacMath. Goalkeeper is a position that is usually held by an established veteran, making it difficult for rising talents to see playing time.
One of the possible destinations that could offer MacMath a chance to play within a year is Seattle. With longtime US veteran Kasey Keller signed to a one-year deal, MacMath heading to the Sounders could be logical. It would give the budding ‘keeper one year to learn from an all-time great, then getting a chance to start after Keller retires at the end of the season.
It’s an appealing scenario for the 19-year-old shot-stopper.
“That sounds real promising,” MacMath said. “Kasey Keller’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world and had an unbelievable career in Europe, so I think it’d be an awesome opportunity.”
Despite his highly-vaunted Generation adidas contract status, projecting where MacMath might land in the draft is tricky. Recent history indicates that teams hesitate to pick goalies very early on, even when they are in the GA class. Last year, Johnson went 51st overall, and the highly-rated Frei was selected 13th overall in 2009.
Speculation about where he might land hasn’t fazed MacMath. He just hopes to get his shot in MLS.
“It’s just playing the waiting game. It’s a little hectic – everyone’s asking, ‘Where do you want to be? Where do you think you’re going to go?” he said. “But I can’t really predict anything because anything can happen on draft.”
MacMath was one of four possible first round draft picks to spend time with the US U-20 team this past week instead of at the Combine. Having played with the U-20s before, the level of comfort with his teammates offers an easier option to standout as opposed to the Combine participants, who were having a little trouble gelling on the pitch in their first day on Saturday.
“[The Combine] is definitely a lot more difficult, especially for goalkeepers because they aren’t used to the players,” said MacMath. “I’ve been with this team for awhile. … It makes it easy with the 20s and developing with a team.”
MacMath will learn his next destination on Thursday, when the SuperDraft takes place in Baltimore, Md.