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Does Zac MacMath = Chris Seitz?

Photo: Earl Gardner/Daniel Gajdamowicz

This might sound familiar.

Going into opening day, Philadelphia Union’s presumptive starting goalkeeper is a former University of Maryland All-American, U.S. youth international and top five draft pick. He was coached by Union goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian in college and apprenticed to a top veteran goalkeeper in the pros. He played well last year in limited duty but has never been a regular starter at the professional level, with just seven career starts in Major League Soccer. His backups have even less top-level experience than him.

Considering the preceding paragraph could have been written in 2010 about former Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz or today about current backstop Zac MacMath — right down to the seven career MLS starts going into their first Union opening day — it’s hard not to think of the oft-paraphrased George Santayana quote: Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The similarities between Seitz and MacMath are so striking it’s nearly impossible to avoid comparisons in an honest assessment of the Union’s goalkeeper situation. When Union manager Peter Nowak said last week, “Why do I need to bring in a veteran?” thousands of Union fans with post-traumatic stress symptoms from 2010 probably had an easy answer as they thought, “Oh no, not again.

But for all the similarities between MacMath and Seitz, there are significant differences that could put MacMath in position to perform far better in 2012 than Seitz did in 2010.

  • Unlike Seitz, MacMath has a settled defense in front of him.

In 2010, the Union cycled through starting back lines like they were changing socks. Michael Orozco Fiscal and Cristian Arrieta ping-ponged between center back and right back, complimented by a dose of Juan Diego Gonzalez, and the defensive midfielder role was anything but settled.

In 2012, the Union have one of the league’s best back lines, and it’s fronted by Brian Carroll, as good a defensive presence as any center midfielder in MLS.

  • MacMath has actually played with his teammates before.

Everyone on that 2010 team was new to playing with each other. A lack of chemistry is not good for a goalkeeper.

Today, the Union’s back six don’t have that problem. The only change is the addition of left back Porfirio Lopez. The chemistry and understanding between players are already there.

  • MacMath has an off-field support network that Seitz never had.

Off the field, MacMath has had a year to orientate himself to the Philadelphia area. His father grew up in Philadelphia and played goalkeeper at Frankford High School, and MacMath still has family in the region. Family members come to see his games, and he has an available family social network that Seitz never had.

  • Seitz is built like a linebacker. MacMath is built like a soccer player.

Seitz is a hulking figure at 6-3 and over 230 pounds. MacMath stands just six feet tall, but he’s quick and lanky. Their goalkeeping styles are very different.

Bottom line: MacMath comes into this season with advantages Seitz didn’t have.

Still, he’s so young: At 20, he’s three years younger than Seitz was in 2010.

Seitz didn’t join the Union as a bad goalkeeper either. In 2009, he posted a 72 percent save rate in four starts for Real Salt Lake and had made the 2008 Olympic team, something MacMath could do this year.

But after several rough starts for the Union, Seitz lost his confidence, and the once-promising goalkeeper has yet to show he’ll recover from that.

That’s the risk in starting MacMath in goal this season.

The reward could be the emergence of one of the next wave of great American goalkeepers. Then again, that could have also happened if MacMath took over in 2013.

50 Comments

  1. 2012 MacMath season (will) = 2011/12 De Gea season

  2. Exactly what is so similar between the two that this post could assume it didn’t need to elaborate on that idea? Is it simple that one would a inexperienced young keeper with a starting role, just like the other? Is that it? Then that must mean the Chris Seitz comparisons were rampant in Chicago and D.C.
    Clearly there are differences (Seitz already burned out once, MacMath already had a veteran presence for one year, among others), but at the end of the day if the strongest comparison is the “unproven youth starting GK” then there have been dozens of Chris Seitzs in MLS history.

    • Read the second paragraph again. Every word in it applies to each goalkeeper going into his first season as regular starter for the Union, right down to the 7 career MLS starts going into opening day. I’ll edit the post to add a line on that, in case it wasn’t clear enough.

  3. Please dear God no. I think the biggest difference between Seitz and MacMath is between the ears. The kid seems poised and I’m hoping he takes the job and runs with it.

    • He wasn’t THAT poised. He went from being tentative in the New England game to being so over confident by the end he thought he could get his hands on any ball that crossed in the box.

      He is our goalie at the moment but he will screw up, and those screw ups will cost us goals/games. Will the fans stand by that? Will Nowak? Without a veteran presence there will be no other goalie to help right the ship through a calm “I have seen this before.” attitude. What if for some reason he get benched for a game and a goalie along with our team D puts together some good games? are we prepared for some goalie controversy instead of letting our #1 guy develop?

      It seems like the Union want to combine all of the worst aspects of the Flyers and the Eagles without any of the good ones.

      • I’d perter a goalie who thinks he can get every cross than Mondragon, who while a great goalie last year, did not have the agility to get out to those crosses. Especially with our lack of height across the backline.

      • Well, Faryd was giving up bad goals left and right at the end of the year and the fans didn’t have a problem with it. Plus, he was losing his sh@t all over the place. I loved what Mondy brought to the team when he came on board but he knew which way the wind was blowing and made a graceful exit.

  4. I fully think we need another experienced keeper. MacMath has a very bright future he’s shown that he can hang, and make the saves. Hes smart and had a productive off season. He does know the team and has a support system in place. However mentally if he gets rattled we are going to need someone to step in and help out. Im not sure if the other two keepers we currently have will be suitable replacements.

    • Amen. MacMath is an excellent young keeper, but you need a realistic backup option if he needs a game off, his form dips or the Olympics is played this summer.

      • If he goes to the Olympics. He’s got a lot of Competition. Rumor has it Klinsy wants Hamid to be the starter to get used to International stuff.

  5. Here’s another thing to put into the Unlike Seitz, MacMath…

    Seitz was NEVER regarded as the future goalkeeper of US soccer (not in any serious sense at least) at any point in his career. Seitz was 1-4-2 with over 2.0 GAA and under 60% save %. 34 shots against. He’s had 1 shutout in his entire pro career. Never once posting a shutout for the Union. Each game he played made you question how he became a professional. He’s had 7 youth international caps.

    Zac along with Johnson and Hamid are the next in line for USMNT. 3-0-4 with a 1.07 GAA and a 64% save % beating Mondragon in Save %. 25 shots against. 3 shut outs. His first start was his ONLY bad game for the Union and only the first half. 29 youth international caps and counting.

    There’s no comparing them in any way. MacMath is one of the brightest prospects in the goalkeeper pool right now. The most probable starter for the Olympic team.

    Oh let’s do a comparison of MacMath to Oliver Kahn or something. I’m sure we can piece together a Kevin Bacon sort of thing with them too.

    Oliver Kahn was on the 2006 WC team for Germany which was managed by Jurgen Klinsmann who is the coach of the US now, who hired Caleb Porter to be the U-23 team coach which MacMath is on. They both play goalie, and became starters of their teams at 20 years old. Both their father’s played soccer.. Both have blonde hair….. wait a minute… OMG MACMATH IS THE NEXT KAHN!

    • Yes! Zac: Khan….. I love it! Lol

    • This is from an article on July 29, 2010 from Bleacher Report. It was entitled, “The Time is Now: Five Players Who Should Be Playing for US Soccer Soon”

      On Christ Seitz:

      “He’s called the US goalkeeper of the future.
      And that is a fair assessment.
      At 23, Philadelphia Union keeper Chris Seitz is proving to be the next big thing in American soccer.”

      Lots of people thought he was the future. Just sayin’

      • Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Bleacher report is all user-submitted articles picked out from a bunch after submitting a little portfolio to become one of thousands of amateur authros? The author also said “Seitz has settled in and is establishing himself as a solid number one for Philadelphia to rely on in the coming seasons.”

        Gotta ask. When did he ev-er establish himself to be a solid #1 at any point in his career? The article was written after the start of the season too, and after he went 4-8-2 with 28 goals against in 14 games. If that solidifies a solid start in his eyes, I don’t know what he thought of his after the rest of the season.

        That’s one source, if there are more out there it’s very hard to find, I’ve tried every google keyword bunch I could try and that was the only one I could find only after you told me the name of the article.

        • It was the easiest to find, yes. But there was plenty of strong sentiment that Seitz had the potential to become the next US keeper. Plenty. People compared him to Tim Howard and discussed if Seitz was too heavy/muscular to be as agile.

          I’m with you that MacMath is a better player with higher hopes, but I think its important to remember that Seitz did have a similarly lofty set of expectations when he arrived in Philly.

    • Macmath is not the US goalkeeper of the future. He’s clearly behind Hamid and Johnson in the pecking order right now and they are all about the same age.

      Having said that, being the goalkeeper of the future means nothing. It usually is more a matter of hype and circumstance. I personally find Macmath to be a decent keeper with some nice traits, but I’ve yet to see him pull off particularly special saves. I thought Mondy was done though, so I’m personally ready for the Zac era. We could use a Brad Knighton though.

      • What clearly makes him behind Johnson? Hamid I understand because he’s been getting consistant calls to the senior team, but Johnson? Because he got 2 caps while MacMath was training with the U-23 team each camp they’ve had because he’s most likely going and Johnson will help Chicago to another poor finish?

        • Playing any minutes in full nats games is a pretty clear sign johnson is ahead of the curve. You don’t get called up to the senior team because you are worse. i like macmath and am not sure johnson is better, but the evidence seems to suggest johnson was ahead. perhaps with macmath as the full-time starter now, he can move past him, but i see johnson clearly ahead as of now.

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