Senior goalkeeper Michael McCarthy was the subject of an excellent profile in today’s Norwalk Hour. In a story headlined “”Keeping the faith,” Matthew Doran wrote:
When Dan Woog looks at Mike McCarthy, the first thing he sees is a tremendous goalkeeper, someone with a bright future ahead of him. How else could you describe the 6-foot-3 senior, who has posted five shutouts while allowing just two goals in seven games so far this season for the undefeated Wreckers?
“He’s got physicality. He’s got the long arms and height,” said Woog, in his seventh season as head coach of the Staples boys soccer team. “But that means nothing without sure hands. Often it’s hard for a tall keeper to play low. They love anything high, but the last thing they want to do is get that body down. But he’s very good on the ground. He’s very good at cutting down angles and he’s very courageous.”
However, it’s the last two years of McCarthy’s life that really define him, not only as a player, but as a person.
McCarthy actually grew up playing everything but goalkeeper, developing his skills as a field player during his youth soccer days then serving as a midfielder during his freshman season at Staples.
During the summer prior to his sophomore season with the Wreckers, McCarthy had an epiphany. He decided to switch to goalkeeper, not with personal goals in mind, but because he knew it might end up being the best thing for the team.
The amazing thing is, McCarthy wasn’t even thinking about that season, or the next. McCarthy just wanted to make sure Staples had a goalie when his sophomore class became seniors.
“I looked around and noticed that the goalkeeping situation for our class wasn’t particularly strong,” said McCarthy, whose father, Stuart, helped the Wreckers win a state title in 1979. “I knew that had to be addressed somehow because I knew we were going to have a great team this year.”
Woog actually tried to talk McCarthy out of the decision, telling him there was a very good chance he wouldn’t see the field until his senior year. The Wreckers already had a line of goalies in place, including Adam Liu, who was only a year ahead of McCarthy, the starter for last year’s FCIAC championship team.
But McCarthy was adamant. He knew it would be painful. He knew it would take a ton of work. The only experience he had as a goalie prior to high school came on the U-9 level of youth soccer. But McCarthy was willing to wait if it meant keeping the program strong.
That’s exactly what has happened.
Wtih a solid returning nucleus, including midfielder Alan Reiter, the Hour’s 2008 All-Area MVP, and senior sweeper Jack Hennessy, Staples is right back where it was last season, driving toward FCIAC and state titles. At 7-0 overall, having outscored their opponents by a gaudy 22-2 margin, the Wreckers certainly look like a team on a mission.
McCarthy’s unselfish act had a lot to do with it.
“My freshman season we were 12-0 and I knew we were gong to have some good kids coming up behind me,” McCarthy said. “It was tough sitting for two years, but it was worth it because we have a very good team this year and we’re looking forward to a very good season.”
Having the foresight to see that far into the future, then working his tail off to make things happen the way he planned, makes McCarthy a rare creature as far as high school athletes go.
“He said he was gong to do it, and he did it,” Woog said. “He went to camps. He played competitively and got himself on the South Central premier team. He just worked and worked and worked. Whatever opportunity arose, he took it.”
Woog is definitely grateful.
“He did it because he gets Staples soccer,” Woog said. “He understood that it was what was best for the team, what was best for everybody, and not just what was best for him. I’m just in awe of what he’s done.”
McCarthy’s hard work is definitely showing through in his play on the field. He went six straight games before allowing his first varsity goal during a 2-1 win over Danbury on Sept. 25. He’s 8-0 in his career with six shutouts, including a 7-0 mark and five shutouts this season.
McCarthy had some good moments prior to this season. He started a gamem against Wilton when Liu was ill and posted a 3-0 shutout and also made a huge save in a 3-2 victory over Darien in the FCIAC quarterfinals after Liu was forced out of the game with a yellow card.
But this is the year McCarthy’s been waiting for, and now he’s making the most of it, opening the season with four consecutive shutouts before allowing the only goal of his career during a 2-1 win against Danbury.
“It’s a lot of fun,” McCarthy said. “I always knew this was going to come, but finally getting to get into these games I’ve been watching for two years, I really enjoy it.”