WAYNE, Pa. – If Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath is upset that his team selected another netminder with the first pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft, he’s not showing it – at least not publicly.
In fact, MacMath even drove top overall selection Andre Blake to training during the first week of preseason camp in an attempt to forge a good relationship with the rookie he’ll be competing with in net.
“We got to talk a little about where he’s from, his school, all kinds of stuff,” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve spoken a little bit and we talk here and there on the field. It’s going well so far.”
The dynamic between MacMath and Blake figures to be one of the most interesting storylines of the Union preseason.
The 22-year-old MacMath has already accumulated more than 70 MLS starts, starting all but two games over the past two seasons. But he’s actually a year younger than Blake, an excellent shot-stopper so ripe with potential that the Union traded up to make him the first goalkeeper ever taken first in the MLS SuperDraft.
Did that move catch MacMath off guard?
“I was a little bit surprised,” admitted MacMath, who was on hand at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the SuperDraft. “But obviously I understand why they picked him. He’s a very good goalkeeper with a lot of potential and someone that’s going to push me. That’s the whole point of drafting him. I’m already working with him and it’s going well.”
Since being thrust into the starting role leading into the 2012 season following the sudden departure of Faryd Mondragón, MacMath hasn’t really been threatened by his backups.
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That figures to change this season.
And while it might be unfair to call it an open competition – manager John Hackworth said immediately after the draft that MacMath is still the team’s starter – having Blake in camp will certainly bring out MacMath’s competitive side even more.
“Any time you have a competition, it pushes people to be better,” MacMath said. “Obviously I want to go out there and have the best year that I can have and kind of prove to myself that I’m the goalkeeper that I think I am.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.