This might seem counterintuitive, but the problem with young goalkeepers isn’t the occasional bobble or goof. Not exactly, anyway.
Everybody is prone to the occasional stinker. Trusty Tim Howard himself blew it a few weeks back for Everton. It happens.
The difference is that Howard has the confidence and the grounding to pick himself up, raise his hand in that “my bad” gesture and get on with it. Experience equals stability, and one bad moment isn’t going to crush the man.
Young goalkeepers don’t have the same kind of emotional reinforcement. They haven’t stood the test in big matches, over time, through the years. So when the first goof gets by, you just never know how they might handle it.
I always say, starting a young goalkeeper is OK. That in itself isn’t the bigger problem. The issue is how they react after that first costly moment – because it’s out there. Did they just make themselves and their team vulnerable to more thrills and spills (two words you never, ever want associated with your own six-yard box)?
Zac MacMath, 20, made the start against Portland last night in Philadelphia Union goal. He had some very nice moments, but one critical, costly error. His team had a 1-0 halftime lead on the road; that’s not an awful place to be for a visitor at formidable Jeld-Wen Field.
But when Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s 54th –minute header squirted beneath MacMath, it helped turn momentum in Portland’s favor. The Timbers went on for a 3-1 win and Peter Nowak’s Union missed a chance to gain some valuable, early points on the road.
But again, Portland is a tough place to pick up points. That 9-5-3 home record in 2011 as an expansion team isn’t bad, at all. So the result itself should hardly cost panic back in Pennsylvania.
For the Nowak and the Union, the bigger question is this: How will their talented, young ‘keeper, just a second-year pro now in his first year as a starter, pick up the pieces going forward?
Watch the goal in question here: