STEVENS: Ex-Lobo Goalies Battling It Out for MLS Playing Time
May 26, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The déjà vu factor is that when Weber looks over his shoulder he sees a promising young goalie on his tail named Mike Graczyk. That's history repeating itself for Graczyk, too. When he came to UNM out of Albuquerque La Cueva High, it was Weber who stood between Graczyk and his time in front of the Lobo net.
The twist in this déjà vu thing in San Jose is that Weber is getting a taste of what Graczyk went through as a Lobo. Weber is trying to steal some time in front of the net from Joe Cannon, the Earthquakes` starting keeper.
"It's a little weird that it would happen like this again," said Graczyk. "What are the odds?"
Said Weber: "It's a lot like it was in college. Mike is trying to do the same thing I'm doing. We're both trying to get on the field. I'm trying to take Joe's spot and Mike is trying to take mine. That kind of competition is good for all of us."
So far, neither Weber nor Graczyk have done much climbing in the San Jose lineup. Cannon has started all nine MLS games and has logged all the available 810 minutes for the 1-6-2 Earthquakes. But Weber and Graczyk seem more than willing to bind their time and go the work-ethic route in order to impress the `Quakes coaching staff.
"They are the type of players who put team goals first," said Lobo coach Jeremy Fishbein. "For me, it's just nice to see them out there living their dream of making a living playing soccer. Andrew and Mike are real different in their personalities and their presence on the field, but first and foremost they are great competitors and great goalies."
Weber and Graczyk have yet to make their mark with the Earthquakes in MLS game action, but both goalies made lasting impressions at UNM and hold numerous Lobo records.
Weber is No. 1 in career minutes, career starts, career wins, career saves and career shutouts. Graczyk is No. 1 in season shutouts and in career goals-against. The pair share the No. 1 spot for season wins at 18. Graczyk also played in a national championship game for UNM.
Weber, a senior at UNM when Graczyk was a freshman, is ahead of his teammate on the experience scale. Weber got some solid minutes last season playing for the Montreal Impact of the United Soccer League. But he felt his situation in the net as a backup was a dead end and leaped at the opportunity to join the Earthquakes in the MLS.
"It was frustrating in Montreal," said Weber. "With goal keeping, a lot of it is momentum. You need that momentum, that confidence, but it's hard to get those things if you aren't in the game much or are only in in spurts.
"I figured if I was going to be a backup goalie I wanted to do it in the MLS. But as a young keeper in this league, you don't always get a lot of games."
Yeah, tell that to Graczyk, who not only has to leapfrog over Weber, but also over Cannon -- two goalies with a whole lot of net experience at the pro level. What makes it easier for Graczyk is coming from the team-first attitude stressed by Fishbein at UNM.
"You always want to get on the field," said Graczyk. "You want to be out there every game. I'm competitive and I want to play. But I also have a responsibility that comes with my position.
"Right now, I'm the third-string goalie and there are things I have to do to make the team better while I'm trying to make myself better. I've accepted that role, but I'm working hard and I know that I'm ready to step into any situation. When my time comes, I'm ready."
Weber said in the MLS players often are loaned to other teams in need of specific players. It's usually a need based on injury. Weber is hoping to log some net time going this route.
"I just need some time in the net, but I like my situation here (San Jose)," said Weber. "You can`t complain about being a No. 2 goalie in the MLS.
Graczyk got his MLS start with Colorado and jumped around in the league before getting picked up by San Jose.
"I got good experience going around the league and working with different teams," said Graczyk. "But it's nice to be on one team and concentrate on what I need to do to help them win games.
"Andrew is a good buddy of mine and we have a good time with each other, but at the same time we are fighting to make our team better and ourselves better. We are both pushing Joe to become the best keeper he can be, but we also are pushing ourselves trying to get on the field."
Weber and Graczyk are living their dream in the MLS, but the dream hasn't yet had a happy ending -- a starting job. For UNM's Fishbein, it's good for his program to see former Lobos hanging out in the MLS.
"It's huge to have Lobos in the pros because most of the players who come in here want to continue their playing career," said Fishbein. "Our challenge is to develop them as players and give them that opportunity, but at the same time we push to get them an education and a degree."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner