By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia Union have been fun to watch so far here in 2013. They have put together a 6-5-4 record in MLS action and on Wednesday they will play D.C. United in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. One key to success has been the development of young goaltender Zac MacMath. He has started every MLS match and earned his fourth shutout of the season in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Columbus.
All that action hasn’t left much for his back-up Chris Konopka to do on gamedays. Now he did get a start in Friday’s 2-0 win over Reading in a friendly, but he hasn’t made any appearances in MLS action or in Open Cup play.
“You have to just be ready,” Konopka told KYW Newsradio after Wednesday win over the Crew. “You have to sort of mentally prepare for every game that you’re going to play and stay sharp that way through training. I think the two of us together (with MacMath) we do well with our goalkeeper coach to keep it that way.”
Konopka has been around the block, he’s spent time in MLS with the Union, Columbus, New York and Kansas City. He also spent three seasons playing overseas in Ireland.
“I enjoyed it,” Konopka says. “I went over to get away for a little bit, went three years and played in Ireland. It was definitely enjoyable, definitely changed the way I look at football, at soccer, a lot of ways. I think it made me more of a pro and made me come to be, I think, a little more and understand the game more.”
Konopka had a very good college career, playing a Providence College in the Big East. He was drafted by Kansas City in 2007 and he talks about how he’s changed since those early pro days.
“I’m definitely more vocal than I was in the past,” Konopka says. “When you’re a young kid, you don’t really know what your place is on a team, or how you sort of react with players, older guys, veterans and stuff like that. I’m 28 now and I’m actually one of the more veteran (players) on the team when you look at an actual age chart and stuff like that. Maybe come into my own a little bit more, and feel more comfortable, not worry about the other guys when you’re playing and just sort of be yourself on the field.”
This run with the Union allows Konopka to stay pretty close to home. A native of Toms River, New Jersey, Konopka is enjoying his time in Chester and isn’t surprised how soccer has been embraced since the Union came into the league.
“It’s a great sports town,” Konopka says. “I’ve actually (been) a Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles fan my whole life. So I know what the fans are like, and how this town would take on a new club, a new team, if you will. I think they’ve been fantastic. Best support around the entire country I feel like. When you’re here, you know they get behind your back and they are always rooting for you. So it’s good to see.”
The Union and D.C. United will meet at 7:00pm in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.