LIBERTYVILLE — Libertyville boys soccer goalkeeper Sam Muchmore has a clear idea how to play his position.
“I think it’s really important to come out and clean the box area,” said Muchmore, a senior. “If a ball is coming, you have to come out and get it.”
Be aggressive. Goalkeepers can’t be passive. Muchmore is sure of that, despite the events of a game at Wheeling Sept. 28 last year.
In that game, a Wheeling player launched a crossing pass into the goal box, where Muchmore was playing. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Muchmore went up to corral the pass, demonstrating that aggressive style. He caught the ball and quickly fell to the ground.
“A Wheeling kid hit him in the chest,” Libertyville coach Andy Bitta said. “He got whiplashed.”
“I was knocked out for awhile,” Muchmore said. “I remember getting in the car and lying in bed at the hospital.”
Doctors at Lake Forest Hospital diagnosed Muchmore with a concussion. It ended his season. And as he found when he returned to school a week after the injury, it wasn’t just his athletic life that was affected by the head injury.
“It was hard to focus on school work,” Muchmore said, adding he would often go to the nurse’s office and take a nap during the day to relieve the stress. “I tried to take notes but it was hard. The symptoms of the headaches kept coming back. I’d try to focus on a topic but could not grasp it.”
Unable to watch television or play video games because ambient noise and light heightened his symptoms, Muchmore lived a solitary life for almost two months.
“Most of the time I sat around and listened to music,” Muchmore said.
Occasional trips to Libertyville games kept him in contact with teammates.
By early December, Muchmore’s head cleared. He was symptom-free. He began workouts with his Greater Libertyville Soccer Association indoor team. In January, there was a breakthrough.
“I was playing normally,” he said. “I had almost forgotten about the concussion.”
Almost a year since the injury, Muchmore is back with the Wildcats. He said he remains symptom-free. He started two of the team’s first three games this season, allowing just one goal.
Muchmore’s teammates are happy he’s back.
“When the ball is played over his head, he’s always comes out strong and tries to win every ball he can,” senior center back Ryan Pacholski said. “It makes it easier on us when we know he can win every ball.”
Pacholski said he hasn’t noticed a change in Muchmore’s style of play. Muchmore admits he’s a bit more reluctant to come out and challenge opponents for balls. But he still believes the position requires a certain recklessness.
“You have to play how you are supposed to play,” Muchmore said. “You are not going to get into tackles and go crazy but you have to play aggressive, even if you are scared from [an] injury. It was just a freak accident that will never happen again.
“Or I hope not.”