Last night, Piotr Nowak made a shocking move when he decided to waive goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Brad Knighton was the back-up goalkeeper behind Chris Seitz and while Seitz was dreadful, Knighton filled in admirably when he got his chances towards the end of the season. In his eight games, he had a .697 save percentage (Seitz posted a .596 save percentage last season for that it is worth), allowed 8 goals, and recorded two clean sheets. The Union's record in games Knighton started was 3-3-1.
Heading into the off-season, goalkeeper was something the Union were going to have to address. While Brad Knighton may not yet be ready for a full-time starters role, Seitz needed to go. And go he did as he was drafted in the Re-Entry Draft by the Seattle Sounders. That left the Union with a big goalkeeping hole. Most teams carry three goalkeepers, and yet the Union only had one.
Enter Faryd Mondragon. He was not officially announced until after the SuperDraft but reports of his acquisition had surfaced well beforehand. The 39-year-old Colombian goalkeeper may be past his prime, but for a young team and, more specifically, a young back line, a veteran leader goalkeeper like Mondragon is a perfect fit for the Philadelphia Union.
The stunner came at the SuperDraft when the Philadelphia Union surprised everyone and selected Zac MacMath 5th overall. Don't get me wrong, I like MacMath and I see him as a critical part to the Union's future, but honestly, there is little he will do to contribute to the Union this season. Chances are he will spend most of the season on the reserve team. And for a 19-year-old kid coming out of college and having never played professionally before, it will be all the better for him.
As unexpected as the MacMath selection was, it did solve the Union's goalkeepers problems. They had Mondragon, their veteran starter for this season and next season, Brad Knighton, the young competent back-up, and MacMath, the exciting young prospect in the reserves.
Every thing was picture perfect until Piotr Nowak turned made the shocking move to waive Knighton, turning a strength into a question mark, after it had been improved from a weakness to a strength earlier in the off-season. And worst of all, Nowak waived him. They lost both of last year's keepers and got absolutely nothing in direct return. Now losing Seitz was a reward all in its own, but I am shocked that Knighton would not fetch at least something in return of positive value to the Union.
Faryd Mondragon is 39-years-old. By season's end, he will be 40. He is past the prime of his career and is quite possibly injury prone, especially if Nowak decides to ride him this season like he rode Seitz last season. Eventually you are going to need to give a back-up goalkeeper some starts. That's why Knighton was perfect. He would be able to 6 to 8 well-distributed starts to give Mondragon the rest that a 39-year old keeper needs, in addition to providing a comfort level in the net
Zac MacMath is 20 years younger than Faryd Mondragon. He is an exciting prospect who some were saying before the draft was one of the best keeper to enter the MLS Draft in quite some time. I look forward to the day that MacMath will contribute regularly to the team, likely two years from now when Mondragon's contract expires. But under absolutely no circumstances should MacMath see any playing time this season with the Union. He belongs in the reserves where he can get adjusted to the professional game and develop as a goalkeeper. If you want to give him a spot start or a spot appearance in a home game at the end of the year against a bad team, then maybe I would understand. But outside of that, MacMath absolutely should not see playing time this year.
So with a 39-year old Mondragon unlikely to literally play every game this season, and a prospect who has no business coming out of the Reserve League to with the big boys of MLS yet, who are the Union left with at back-up?
They did bring in a pre-season trialist, and his name is Thorne Holder. He is originally from Port of Spain, a city on the island of Trinidad and the capital of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, he is 24-years old, and went to school at the University of Maryland before transferring to Adelphi University where he had a spectacular senior season, where he allowed 0.77 goals against average and had a .806 save percentage. As it stands right now, this 24-year old unproven goalkeeper stands to be the back-up of the Philadelphia Union. Something about this has me a little unsettled.
I have not been to the pre-season camps, maybe Thorne Holder has done real well and impressed the hell of out of Nowak in the three days he has been there. Maybe Nowak has a plan for another back-up that we are not aware of. But if things stay as they are, it looks like it is Mondragon the starter and Holder the back-up, with MacMath on reserves. Are you comfortable with that? Is that the way things will actually turn out for the season? Will Nowak bring in another keeper to be the back-up? Or will Nowak do the absolute wrong thing and make MacMath the back-up goalkeeper, with Thorne Holder either cut or in the Reserve League? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments section!