After playing only five matches in 2018, Mac Steeves is enjoying a bounce-back season with Hartford Athletic.
A Massachusetts native and a Rhode Island college alum, Hartford Athletic forward Mac Steeves is getting a second chance at professional soccer back in the area he knows best. After a rookie season that never reached its full potential (we’ll discuss that in a moment), Steeves decided to take his talents, and self-motivation, to the expansion Athletic. “Signing with Hartford Athletic was very exciting for me. Obviously, being close to my family was a factor that went into it,” the 24-year-old told me. “Being part of a brand new franchise in the inaugural season was also a factor And my conversations with Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen over the phone played a role. Hearing what coach Nielsen and the owners envisioned with this team was very impressive and I was excited and eager to be a part of it. So far, I am enjoying my decision to play here in Hartford and I am excited to see what is left in store for the rest of the season as we have many games left.”
Let’s flashback to last season, Mac’s rookie year. In the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Houston Dynamo selected Steeves out of Providence College. Due to a major hip injury that required surgery and talented players like Mauro Manotas ahead of him on the depth chart, the striker only played in three matches for the first team and twice for the USL affiliate RGVFC Toros. But, despite the injury and a lack of consistent playing time derailing his rookie season, he looks back on his time with the Texas clubs in a positive light. “My first professional season was nothing short of a dream come true. Being drafted by Houston, a team with a good history in the league having won two championships was amazing,” Steeves explained. “I was finally breaking into the team getting minutes here and there and the week I got injured was the week before I was most likely looking at a possible uptick in minutes. So, obviously the timing of my injury was terrible, but even worse was the fact that it kept me out for almost a full year.”
“Regardless of the injury, I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience in Houston. I grew more as a person and a professional in that one season than I have probably over the last 10 years. I was around top professionals and legends of the game day in and day out (Just to name a few DaMarcus Beasley, Phillippe Senderos, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and many others). And being able to learn from these professionals who have nearly perfected the craft of being a professional soccer player was a priceless experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I created friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. And although that chapter in Houston was shortlived and has come to an end, I will be forever grateful for that opportunity.”
It came to an end when Houston declined the option on Mac’s contract after the season. “Although the Dynamo didn’t exercise my option, they were generous enough to offer me a contract with their USL affiliate RGVFC. I explored other options as I was still going through the latter part of my rehab in the offseason in Massachusetts,” he said. I asked him if that decision to decline his option was a major motivation for him. Steeves responded, “Them not picking up my option wasn’t the driving factor to my motivation. I had no hard feelings with the organization. I was more motivated by my injury to prove to myself that I can still compete at a high level. I have dealt with injuries over the past few years, and each time it is more and more difficult to climb and overcome the obstacles faced in rehab and recovery.”
“However, I feel like I have rebounded strongly and proved to myself and others that I can overcome many things no matter how high the mountain to climb is. I have set new goals after each injury and after this most recent injury that occurred in Houston, my main goal was to get back playing the game I love and I have achieved that goal. I have many more goals that I will shoot for and reach for, but for now, my mind is focused on Hartford Athletic and proving to the coaching staff and teammates that I can help this team and I am willing to do so in any way necessary.”
Despite the club’s struggles out of the gate, Steeves is enjoying his time with the Connecticut USL Championship side, especially in the match vs. Charlotte Independence on May 4th. “It felt amazing scoring the first home goal in franchise history, which helped secure the first point in franchise history,” he recalled. “It is moments like those that make my decision to play here in Hartford so special. The fan base and support was incredible for that game with almost 12,000 fans in attendance. That is why I play this game, and that is why I love playing this game so much. The energy and passion are contagious and motivates more than anything else. In the moment, it was pure excitement, but looking back, it was an honor to be a part of such a special day in Hartford Athletic history.”
Scoring the first home goal in franchise history… Priceless!
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) May 4, 2019
With nine appearances, four starts this season, Mac is looking to prove to himself that he is still able to play at a high level in the game he loves. “I have played this sport for too long just to let a few injuries and surgeries deter me from continuing on this journey which is my childhood dream,” Mac said. He added that he’s worked his whole life for this and will enjoy every moment he is blessed with in professional soccer.
He’s also blessed to live and work in a great area. “There are many fishing spots that I have explored. I adopted/rescued a little puppy named Jax from a shelter. So, I have been spending quite a bit of time exploring parks and different areas of Hartford/Farmington with him,” he shared. Also, he enjoys getting coffee at The Rebel Dog and Vero Pizza, as well as eating and walking around in West Hartford.
It’s great to see Mac living out his childhood dream, back in the Northeast. As long as he continues to get his chance, he will work hard to produce for the club and prove to himself that he can still play this game. I wouldn’t bet against him.