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Union Sign Veteran Goalkeeper To Kick Zac MacMath in the Shorts

Jun 19, 2013, 11:42 AM EDT

source: AP

Oka Nikolov, 39, is coming to the Union from Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga. (AP Photo)

The Union have been so up and down this year that it’s hard to find one single thing to gripe about on a regular basis.

The defense is good then the defense is bad. The attack is strong then the attack is anemic. John Hackworth doesn’t know how to make a lineup then John Hackworth is a master tactician.

Other than what seemed like a breakout game in Chicago, goalkeeper Zac MacMath has been, um, less than inspiring this year. He’s too hesitant, too passive, too stationary and seems unable to read the attack when it really counts.

Today, things got a bit hairier for MacMath. And that’s a great thing for the Union.

This morning, the team announced the signing of veteran Macedonian/German goalkeeper Oka Nikolov. The 39-year-old spent 20 years with Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany — most of that in the top-tier Bundesliga — and started the final eight games for the club this season, helping them reach the qualifying round of the 2013-14 Europa League.

In a perfect world, Nikolov does nothing more than provide a swift kick in the pants for MacMath, who is still the Union’s goalkeeper of the present and future. Maybe he impresses in training, or maybe he gets a start or two to make MacMath uncomfortable. The Union will be better off long-term if Nikolov’s signing lights a fire under MacMath.

But if MacMath continues to be inconsistent, Hackworth now has an option better than Chris Konopka, who wasn’t even impressive enough to earn a start in a U.S. Open Cup game against Ocean City last month.

The last time the Union brought in a veteran from the Bundesliga — Faryd Mondragon — things worked out great. But back then, MacMath was still young and saw Mondragon as a mentor.

Now, he should see Nikolov as real, legitimate competition for a starting job that the Union have given him every chance to seize fully.

And if Zac MacMath feels just a little bit uncomfortable, that’s a promising thing for the Union.