As Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy readies for Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against the Chicago Fire, he might look back at his first MLS season and think it hasn’t gone according to plan.
Just 23-years-old and carrying only one professional season with the USL’s Rochester Rhinos under his belt, McCarthy was originally brought in this season as cover for Algerian international Rais Mbolhi and 2014 First Round SuperDraft selection Andre Blake as the latter returned from injury. Instead, the 2014 USL PRO Rookie of the Year found himself thrust into the spotlight early in the season when, Mbolhi effectively left the team in early April after a string of subpar performances.
Though the early run of matches might not have been what he expected, McCarthy jumped at the chance to get his first run in MLS.
“Every game is an opportunity to get some experience and to play,” McCarthy told ussoccer.com. “I go into every game with the same mindset, to play my game, push my team to win. As long as I do my job and help the team out however I can that’s an achievement.”
He got a nice run of games over the next month before a freak concussion occurred during a mid-May training session. Moments before McCarthy went down, Blake, who was nearing full recovery from offseason knee surgery, planted strangely and tore his right meniscus.
The injuries forced the Union to bring in former trialist and current Carolina RailHawks goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre on an emergency loan. The effective starter through the middle of the league season, when it came time for Philadelphia to enter U.S. Open Cup play, Sylvestre was ineligible after intermittently being recalled to Carolina for their Third Round defeat to the Charlotte Independence in May.
Once clear of concussion symptoms, McCarthy moved back between the sticks for the Union’s Fourth Round tie. Having not played in a month, McCarthy had some shaky moments, but earned a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw. His best work however came in the ensuing penalty shootout as he saved three spot kicks to help the Union down his former club Rochester, 3-1 in the shootout.
McCarthy's heroics in goal through two PK shootouts in this year's Open Cup have helped him guide his boyhood club to the tournament Semifinals.
“I look back and know I made some mistakes in that game where maybe we were lucky to go to penalties,” McCarthy told ussoccer.com. “I kind of had it in my mind that if we went to penalties, I’d have an opportunity to make up for some of those. When you save a PK, it’s a great feeling, it kind of feels like you score a goal. It was a good way to win and being able to save a few PKs gave a confidence boost.”
While Sylvestre continued to start in the league, McCarthy stepped in for the Open Cup again, making six saves as the 10-man Union downed D.C. United 2-1 in the Round of 16 on June 30.
That win set up an afternoon affair with the New York Red Bulls in a July 21 Quarterfinal. Though the Union looked the better side in the first half, they went down to 10-men again when Conor Casey was sent off in the 40th minute. Despite the disadvantage, the Union looked like they’d go through when Eric Ayuk tallied halfway through the second frame, only to see Lloyd Sam finish deep in second half injury time, sending the game to extra time.
The Union survived the extra 30 minutes as McCarthy made nine saves over the two hours of play. He saved his biggest for last however as he stopped Sam’s attempt in the shootout, which eventually pushed the Union to another victory.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves going down to 10 men in both games,” said McCarthy. “In both games, the back line did a very good job listening to me and organizing in front of me, which made the job a lot easier for the team.”
With Sylvestre suffering a right hand laceration, McCarthy has stepped back into goal for the Union in their last two league matches, earning a clean sheet in the team’s 0-0 draw at Orlando City on Saturday.
As the team prepares for its third U.S. Open Cup Semifinal in four years, head coach Jim Curtin gives his young backstop a lot of credit for the run they’ve made in this year’s competition.
“He’s been excellent,” Curtin told ussoccer.com. “He’s a local kid, and I think like myself, he probably feels the weight of the city to try and produce a championship here. He’s run with the Open Cup, done great in the shootouts, but also in the run of play. He’s been very good on crosses and his confidence has grown in each game. Like any young goalkeeper, it’s about recognizing you belong at this level. He’s done that and shown he can thrive and he’s running with that right now.”
Wednesday’s Semifinal against the Chicago Fire will no doubt be the biggest game of McCarthy’s young career, but Curtin has confidence in his young backstop.
“It’ll be a big step for him. It’s a semifinal game, a game of consequence where if you lose you’re done. The good pros rise to that occasion and John has shown he can do that. He’s been great for us on this run.”
As he gets ready for the challenge, McCarthy and his teammates will draw on what got them through the past two matches as the club hopes for a return to a second straight U.S. Open Cup Final.
“I think our mentality in the last two games was what put us through. We were locked in and despite being down a man, no one gave a thought to losing those matches. You don’t want to forget it. It’s something to keep going.
“As we look at Chicago, we know we have an opportunity to go to another final. We know the chance is there for us to lift a trophy.”
CHICAGO (November 22, 2016) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Bruce Arena as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The most decorated head coach in American soccer history, Arena most famously guided the U.S. to its best finish in the World Cup in more than 80 years with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 and returns to the job where he amassed the most wins of any coach in U.S. MNT history.
Arena, who will assume the role on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be formally introduced during a teleconference with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” said Gulati. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The Most Accomplished Coach in U.S. MNT History
Arena steps back into the job that he held over an eight-year tenure from 1998-2006. With a record of 71-30-29, the Brooklyn-born manager is by far the winningest coach in U.S. MNT history as well as the only head coach to lead the USA at two FIFA World Cups.
His crowning achievement came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he led the MNT to a 3-2 upset of Portugal in their opening match before advancing out of the group and earning a 2-0 shutout against Mexico in the Round of 16. Benefiting from the experience of his previous World Cup Qualifying campaign, the U.S. MNT advanced to the 2006 FIFA World Cup with relative ease, booking a place in Germany with three matches to spare in CONCACAF’s Final Round. Drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, a nine-man U.S. squad put in a gutsy performance to earn a 1-1 draw against eventual World Cup champions Italy.
Arena also led the U.S. to its second and third regional titles with championships at the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A History of Success
Beyond his National Team tenure, Arena has found success along every stop of his 40-plus year coaching career. The Long Island native won five NCAA Division 1 National Championships with the University of Virginia, including a still-standing record of four-straight from 1991-94.
His collegiate coaching tenure led him to his first international job, taking the reins of the U.S. U-23 team leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta where Arena guided the USA to a respectable 1-1-1 showing. Arena balanced his U-23 duties with his head coaching role of D.C. United in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer and helped to turn the club into the nascent league’s first true powerhouse. D.C. won four domestic titles on Arena’s watch – the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups, 1996 U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters Shield – as well as international hardware with the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup and 1998 Interamerican Cup.
Following his eight-year tenure with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena returned to club coaching for a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2006-07, before joining the LA Galaxy the following year. In LA, Arena worked to make the Galaxy the premier club in MLS, coaching the side to three MLS Cup titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as two Supporter Shield wins in 2010 and 2011. As the only five-time MLS Cup winning head coach, Arena has worked with numerous coaches throughout his time in Major League Soccer, serving as a mentor to many.
A three-time MLS Coach of the Year winner, Arena was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010 and five years later was named the recipient of the of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award, the highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation.Read more