Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on… we won’t get fooled again!
Or will we.
Zac MacMath, Goalkeeper
After losing former Maryland star goalie and top five pick Chris Seitz to the re-entry draft, the Union grabbed Maryland star goalie Zac MacMath with the fifth pick in the 2011 SuperDraft. It is unfair to draw too many comparisons between the Union’s new young stud and the one who handled the number one role so poorly (and was handled so poorly as an asset) last season.
MacMath’s 15 shutouts as a junior set the Maryland school record, breaking the previous mark of 12 that he tied his freshman year. He led the NCAA in goals against average in 2008 and was the ACC tournament’s MVP in 2010. Perennial top ten programs like UNC and Wake Forest have struggled to beat MacMath. Duke and Virginia haven’t scored on him in two years. All the round numbers could suggest that MacMath was rarely tested, but that simply isn’t true. As a junior, the Maryland star made 69 saves in 23 games while allowing fifteen goals. In short, he was far and away the most talented goalie available in the SuperDraft, both in terms of current ability and potential.
There is no doubt MacMath will have an impact on the Union in the future, but Chris Seitz had a point when he said that he should not be held fully responsible for the team’s defensive woes in 2010. This year’s SuperDraft was heavy on defense. Sheanon Williams deserves all the praise he has received for his play late last year and Michael Orozco-Fiscal rescued his reputation by turning in a good run of solid performances in the middle. With the 6th and 7th picks in the draft being spent on defense, the Union really drove home their goal of building for the future by drafting MacMath over marauding Akron defender Kofi Sarkodie. Try not to imagine the width and energy Sarkodie and Williams would provide together when the Union visit Houston.
MacMath fills a need. Eventually. He is likely to spend most of this season in the reserves, a third option behind Faryd Mondragon and Brad Knighton.
Michael Farfan, Midfielder
When Farfan was interviewed by Tar Heel Blue in October 2009, he was asked about the strongest part of his game. “I would like to think my creativeness.” Farfan likes to run at players. He was a consistent producer of goals and assists at Cal State-Fullerton and at UNC after he transferred before the 2009 season. He can play on the wings but is more likely to try and beat his defender than serve in a delicious cross. One of the most notable things about Farfan’s highlight videos is that he plays on both wings. Another notable thing is that his service needs plenty of work.
North Carolina played a possession game and Farfan should be able to pick up the Union’s short passing strategy quickly, providing width and an outlet from the congestion that often plagued the team last season. He should have plenty of opportunities to make an impression with Philly since the team (outside of Le Toux) suffered from a marked dearth of creativity when Torres was injured/struggling.
Farfan was selected one place above UNC teammate Stephen McCarthy, a defensive midfielder who spent 2010 providing defensive cover as Farfan explored the offensive third of the field.
Aquilas Levi Houapeu, F/M
Levi Houapeu’s Facebook page tells us he is a fan of Didier Drogba, Beavis and Butthead and Titanic. His favorite book is: “I don’t read.”
He certainly appears to read the game of soccer well. Houapeu scored in his first collegiate game to lead the University of Maryland-Baltimore County over Air Force. He posted another good season as a sophomore, but it was during his junior and senior seasons that Houapeu became an unstoppable force. He was the American East Midfielder of the Year in 2009 and the conference’s Striker of the Year in 2010.
Houapeu is short, strong and quick. He will need to develop a good hold-up game and retain his confidence in front of goal if he wants playing time up top.
If he converts into an attacking midfielder, Houapeu could have an interesting role to play on the Union. Considering its wealth of defensive-minded midfielders, the team could afford to let Houapeu run free between the midfield and forward lines, allowing the strikers to remain higher up the pitch and stretch the field.
Grading the SuperDraft
The Union went into the SuperDraft with weak spots in goal and at outside midfield. They also needed to create some competition for spots in the back line. After the Seitz experience, there was a chance the team would shy away from another goalkeeper project and bring in a MLS-ready collegian to immediately challenge for a spot in the first eleven. Instead the team essentially hit reset and decided that it was Seitz and not their handling of him that was to blame for the young goalie’s struggles. Picking Zac MacMath means the team will likely rely on hired guns to fill the pipes until their young colt is ready to run in the big races.
Michael Farfan is a technically gifted player who will produce moments of brilliance and moments of Fred-ness. He adjusted well moving from Cal State-Fullerton to the ACC, but MLS will be a larger leap still. If he impresses in preseason he will find little resistance on his route to the starting right midfield spot. Farfan is a good pick for a team that needed a dangerous offensive player to create width and run at opposing defenses.
UMBC’s Houapeu is a wild card. Only 5’8″ tall, he will have to play smart to make it in MLS. He has an incredibly strong offensive record, and if he plays with confidence expect him to be the type of player who looks dangerous every time he’s on the pitch (like Jack Mac on his good days). Houapeu is a mature player who often felt the full weight of his team’s production on his shoulders. It’s unclear how much of a chance he will get with the first team, but there is nothing wrong with using a 3rd round pick to take a flier on a player with a record as strong as Houapeu.
Overall Grade: B
The MacMath pick feels forced, like the braintrust feels the need to prove they can develop a goalie. Farfan and Houapeu have huge upside and could develop into a talented supporting cast for Le Toux and Mwanga.