Q&A with MLS Goalkeeper Zac MacMath

Zac MacMath is a goalkeeper who currently plays for the Colorado Rapids on loan from the Philadelphia Union for the 2015 season.  The Union selected goalkeeper Zac MacMath with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. He became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to reach 100 career starts in a match against Columbus on Oct. 11, 2014.  He is a fantastic shot-stopper who has really grown into himself over the years, and has emerged as one of the top goalkeepers in the MLS.  TKI had a chance to pick Zac's brain about what contributed to getting him to the highest level, and what since his professional debut has helped keep him there. 

TKI:   In 2014 you became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to reach 100 career starts.  What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to your success at such a young age? 

ZM: There were many contributing factors to my success at such a young age but the one that sticks out in my mind is, commitment. At a very young age, I knew that soccer was my sport, and I wanted to do everything possible to make it a career. The commitment involved many things such as family, hard work, sacrifice, time, and many others. Setting my goals over and over again helped commit me to be where I am today.

 TKI: The mental side is a huge part of the game.  How do you recover from making a mistake or giving up a howler? Does it add any pressure to you when you know maybe millions are watching on TV?  

ZM: I learned at a very young age that mistakes are inevitable. My GK coach as a kid always said, “As a GK, you need a short memory, because there’s no time to dwell on your mistakes.” This still resonates with me everyday. If you dwell and take five minutes to recover from a mistake or goal, there might be another goal in the back of the net before you know it. The best thing you can do when making a mistake, is get right back up, own your mistake, and make it your mission to never make that mistake again. You’re not allowed to take a goal off the scoreboard; you’re only allowed to make sure another one doesn’t get put up.

When I was younger and more inexperienced, playing on TV might’ve added some pressure to the game. As a goalkeeper, we’ve got enough pressure, there’s no sense in adding more. These days, I use any audience, coaches, family, TV, to motivate me to be my best everyday.

TKI: What would you say has been your biggest hurdle to overcome in your career so far? 

ZM:The biggest hurdle I’ve overcome in my career is the realization that you can’t control everything. There have been many issues, on and off the field, which I don’t have any say in, and my play doesn’t affect the issue. There will be politics, there will be many things out of your control, and I’ve learned to focus on what I can control, my work ethic, my attitude, and my desire to be the best.

 TKI: We stress in the importance of watching football (MLS, Premier League, NWSL) to our students.  Specifically to watch the tendencies of all the goalkeepers so they can learn from the best in the world. Do you have a particular goalkeeper that you watch or admire?  

ZM: Growing up, I watched Edwin Van Der Sar play a lot. A coach told me we had similar tendencies, so I watched him anytime I could, and still use YouTube to watch highlights. These days, I continue to watch all goalkeepers from around the world. There is always something to learn, and sometimes you can pick things up in highlights but usually watching full games is the best way to learn from an elite goalkeeper. In watching full games, you get to see the ebb and flows that happen, cards, injuries, adjustments, score lines, all of which affect how a goalkeeper has to play in a match.

TKI: If you could have your choice of any five players to play a small-sided game of 5v5 who would it be?

ZM: This is a tough one for me. I would try to play on the field before being kicked back in goal. My 5v5 team would consist of, two of my best friends that play in MLS now, Kofi Sarkodie of the Houston Dynamo and Amobi Okugo of Orlando City SC. David Beckham would have to be there. Zinedine Zdiane would sit in the middle with Becks, and Theirry Henry up-top to finish everything. I know my stars are all retired, but these guys know how to win, and they would find a way to beat every team we could possibly face.

 A special thank you to Zac for taking the time to chat with us! With many students who hope to play professional soccer one day, hearing some direct insight from a player of your caliber is great exposer for all of our students! As a family, TKI will be attending the March 7th Philadelphia Union against the Colorado Rapids to watch Zac MacMath take the field against our Union