Sports Person of the Week
Rothman Stands Tall in the Rams’ Net
Matt Rothman has helped the Old Saybrook boys’ soccer squad claim back-to-back state titles, while setting a few school records along the way. (Photo courtesy of Matt Rothman )
Matt Rothman knows exactly what it takes to perform under pressure when the stakes are highest. Matt is a goalkeeper for the Old Saybrook boys’ soccer team who helped the Rams defend their state title when they earned a 3-1 double-overtime victory versus Holy Cross in last year’s Class S State Tournament final. Now, Matt is one of Old Saybrook’s captains as he begins his senior year of high school.
Old Saybrook finished the year with an overall record of 17-2-5 after claiming its sixth state crown in program history last fall. For Matt and the Rams, their road to the championship game was just as much of a challenge as the final itself. It took a 4-3 double-overtime win against Cromwell in the semifinal round in order for Old Saybrook to make its way to the title bout.
“My favorite moment from last season has got to be when we defeated Cromwell 4-3 in double overtime to advance to the state finals. The atmosphere of the game was electric,” Matt says. “The fans were all engaged, especially Cromwell’s fan section, and everyone knew what was on the line. I had made a mistake that cost us the tying goal, and we were tied 3-3. Nevertheless, the boys rallied, and we were able to come out on top.”
Matt feels that type of mindset was what defined Old Saybrook’s 2019 campaign. No matter what, the Rams always rallied behind one another to get the job when they were faced with adversity.
“The relief that we felt was supplemented with the knowledge that we had banded together and were able to win a game in which the momentum had shifted against us,” Matt says. “I learned how valuable a cohesive team was that night.”
Matt was also the starting goalie when the Rams won the Class S title in 2018. To go along with his two state championships, Matt has the most shutouts in Old Saybrook boys’ soccer history with a total of 21. Last year, Matt set the Rams’ record for shutouts in a season with 11 on his way to earning All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for his performance in goal—a position that he loves playing.
“Being a goalkeeper, I see the game unfold in a different way from those who are running with the play,” says Matt. “My favorite aspect of the game from a goalkeeping standpoint is the split-second decision-making process that is the difference between a goal or a save. I enjoy the pressure of being either the ‘hero’ or the ‘bum.’”
Matt’s soccer career got started when his parents signed him up for a park and rec league when he was six. Matt initially played on the offensive side of the field and enjoyed being a goal scorer, but ultimately wound up finding his niche as a netminder.
“I have been playing for a long time, since I was very young. As a matter of fact, I played with all the guys on the team at some point during rec league. It basically acted as a first experience to the beautiful game,” Matt says. “From the time I started to about age 11, I was hooked on scoring goals. I loved being the one to put the ball in the back of the net. However, I found my true calling a little later doing the exact opposite.”
Matt trains with his offseason team, the Southeast Soccer Club, in order to improve his skills as a goalie. Matt consistently works with the goalkeeper’s coach on things like diving, ball control, and distribution.
“I do a lot to improve my game. However, with COVID, I haven’t been able to do as much prep work as motivation is a bit hard to find in times like these,” says Matt. “A lot of goalkeeping is making your basics as solid as they can be. For me, this is positioning, catching the ball, and footwork. However, nothing is more valuable than playing time. The more you play, the more situations you are placed in and, as you face more situations, you learn if your decision was the correct one based on the result.”
Matt is also member of the golf team at Old Saybrook High School. Although he didn’t get to compete on the links after the spring season was canceled due to COVID-19, Matt is hoping to play his senior soccer season this fall. Matt and his teammates are preparing to hit the pitch with new Head Coach Steve Waters, who joined the program as an assistant coach last year.
“Throughout the year, coach and I developed a tight bond. I was able to talk with him about many aspects of my game, and he would always have some good advice for me,” says Matt. “The hug after a victory also became a tradition for us two. Hopefully, it continues this year.”
Coach Waters describes Matt as a great goalie and is looking forward to seeing him compete as a senior.
“Matt has tremendous goalkeeper abilities,” Waters says. “He is quick, athletic, and possesses the technical tools to frustrate teams attempting to score. Matt is skillful at his keeper position.”