Photo: Earl Gardner
Editor’s note: At the end of the first two Philadelphia Union seasons, we posted a series of end of the season reviews of every Union player. Over the next several weeks PSP continues with a review of the 2012 season.
As a third string goalie, the hardest part has to be maintaining that small modicum of belief that a certain lunar alignment coupled with a specific event listed only on the Mayan calendar will come together and produce your name on the lineup card.
It has happened once in each of the past two seasons for Union goalie Chris Konopka. Last year he earned New York a 2-2 tie against Chicago. This season he was arguably the best player in the game that marked one of the many lowest-of-the-low points in a campaign that turned a franchise on the rise into a bottom-feeding rebuilder.
Konopka’s player rating from the May 26 0-1 loss to Toronto begins, “Deserved better than a loss in his Union debut, as he came up big for the Union, recording 6 saves, with some of the point-blank variety.” Can a third-stringer ask for a better review?
Assessing a player based on ninety minutes of game time is a difficult, if not impossible, task. The best one can hope to do is measure the employer’s expectations against the employee’s performance. And there can be no doubt that Konopka met and exceeded expectations. The Union did not hesitate to throw their depth keeper directly into the fray in a game that was likely to define the team’s young season. Konopka responded with an agile, able, and aggressive performance.
He flapped at a ball from the edge and was no Faryd Mondragon in the communication department, but those are forgivable shortcomings when a player is asked to step into one of the most mentally taxing roles in sports on short notice.
Few positions are judged as harshly as soccer goalie. Players are judged on momentary events that often occur fifteen or twenty minutes apart with little or no warning. Go for a walk sometime and try to keep your mind focused on everything going on around you for ninety minutes. Chances are you’ll be lost in your own thoughts in less than ten. Goalkeepers stand still most of their careers, but they must always be aware and involved. Just ask Steve Harper.
Not rocking out enough. Oh wait…
Chris Konopka is not the number five pick in the MLS SuperDraft. He’s not that player’s back up. But when his number was called, he was more than ready. In a season of disappointments, Konopka is an exception and an example. And he should be back in 2012.
Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards