BREWER, Maine — Matt Goodman is passionate about soccer and is pursuing the sport he loves as a first-year girls soccer varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at Brewer High School.
Sixteen months ago, he was happy to be alive.
It was May 23, 2013.
Goodman was serving in the Army and he was one of four people in a MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle scouring the Afghanistan countryside for Improvised Explosive Devices.
“We missed one but it didn’t miss us,” said Goodman, whose vehicle was blown up when an enemy fighter detonated a bomb.
The MRAP vehicle went airborne and when it landed, Goodman and his mates were seriously injured. All of them survived.
“It flipped over and spun around in mid-air. The wheels, axles and doors were all blown off,” recalled Goodman, who was behind his gun turret, harnessed to his seat, which may have saved his life.
“The harness was strapped to the bottom of the vehicle. If it had let go, I would have been blown out of the truck,” said the former Hampden Academy and Husson University goalkeeper.
He was in shock when he awoke and was quickly rushed to a base hospital along with his fellow soldiers.
“The only thing that really hurt after I woke up was my ribs,” said Goodman, a Winterport native. “I couldn’t feel anything in my legs. I knew my kneecap was bleeding. But I didn’t look down because I was still in shock.”
Goodman’s injuries were extensive: A severed quadriceps tendon, broken wrist, broken ribs, seven broken teeth, separated shoulder, traumatic brain injury, a kneecap that was torn apart and lacerations on his face and body.
He underwent surgery in Afghanistan and was flown to a base in Germany. He eventually wound up in the (Wounded) Warriors Battalion at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
He considers himself lucky to be alive and said the MRAP vehicle “did its job.”
Goodman spent eight months in Georgia getting treatment and undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation. He went from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane. It took him eight months to finally walk on his own.
It wasn’t his first brush with death.
While serving in Iraq in 2011, his vehicle hit a roadside bomb “but it wasn’t nearly as bad.”
He also also been in plenty of fire fights, including one in which he and his team leader swapped positions.
“We got ambushed and he got shot and paralyzed from the waist down. I didn’t. If we hadn’t switched places, that could have been me,” said Goodman.
Goodman experiences PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but said it is minor.
“Sometimes PTSD will set in during fireworks. I’ll tear up because the fireworks sound like gunshots,” he said.
He also experiences occasional short-term memory loss and said it is uncomfortable to sleep on his stomach because of his ribs.
He had lived out of state since 2006 but, earlier this year, he returned home to spend time with his family and friends.
“I was always the kid who wanted to move away. But when something like that happens, you realize that there is plenty of time to move away. It’s important to spend time with your family and friends,” he said.
One of those friends was first-year Brewer High School girls head coach David Hamel.
“I called David and his brothers to see if they were still playing soccer. I had been running lightly and wanted to play as part of my therapy,” said Goodman.
They were playing indoor soccer at Fields4Kids in Bangor, so he joined up.
“I was willing to fight through the pain. I wanted to try to get back to who I was,” explained Goodman. “With every game, my knee was getting stronger and stronger.”
Goodman played out in the field. He spent very little time as the goalkeeper.
“I wasn’t sure how my knee would withstand the constant bending and moving up and down,” he said.
Goodman asked Hamel if he knew of any coaching jobs. Hamel needed an assistant coach and he gave Goodman a call.
“I’ve known Matt for 15 years,” said Hamel. “He has always been a great guy and has always been passionate about the game. For me, it was an easy call.”
In addition to his sub-varsity coaching roles, Goodman spends a lot of time working with varsity goalkeepers Makayla Henderson and Rose McLaughlin and JV ’keeper Kassi Day.
“I love it,” said the 32-year-old Goodman. “Dave and I have clicked. We have the same coaching philosophy. I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and I learn from him every day. He helps me become a better coach.”
Goodman had worked summer soccer camps at Husson under former women’s coach Keith Bosley and was an assistant/JV coach at John Bapst High in Bangor and at Memorial High School in Manchester, New Hampshire.
He graduated from Husson University in 2005 with a degree in criminal justice and worked as an investigator of white-collar crimes for the Shaw’s Supermarket chain.
Goodman is a staunch believer that goalkeepers “are much more than just shot stoppers.
“They can control play for an entire game through their decisions,” he said.
In addition to teaching them techniques and angles, he harps on communicating with their defenders and on how to quickly distribute the ball to trigger an attack. Unlike most high school teams, the Witches will make back passes to their goalkeepers because they have developed good foot skills under Goodman’s tutelage.
The Witches, who won two games in the previous three years combined, are off to a 4-0 start and have allowed only four goals.
“Matt has made a huge difference,” said Hamel. “I work with the [field] players on their positional play, passing and moving and he’s with the goalies providing them with the work they need on things like covering their angles, punts, kicks and possession. It has worked out perfect.”
Goodman, who said he has some minor limitations when it comes to training with the goalies due to his wrist issues, credited his goalkeepers with their improvement through their work ethic and coachability.
“Their technique is clean and they are controlling the penalty area. They realize that goalies can see the whole field which means they can direct everybody,” said Goodman, who works full time for Adams Landscaping in Blue Hill and also works for All-Pro Soccer in Waterville.
In addition, he is part of the Army National Guard’s military police unit based in Waterville.
Goodman, who lives in Winterport, said he joined the Army because he was “tired of paying my school loans” and because he wanted to serve his country.
He has survived the perils of war and now he is glad to be back and pursuing his passion.
“He could have lost his legs. He’s lucky to be alive,” Hamel said.