Meet Matt Mathai: Moments Spoken In Pictures

TSG met photog Matt Mathai when we accidentally used a photo of his on our site last summer without attribution. Oops.

The first of many amazing shots we've received from Matt....

Next thing you know, Matt was offering us shots whenever we needed them and we were requesting more and more.

TSG is very proud that Matt asked us if we wanted to sponsor him for a credential to shoot the tune-up friendly game in Philadelphia next Saturday. If he doesn’t get a credential–we should find out today or tomorrow–I’ll cry injustice and ask just who is better.

Now, a photo documentary from Matt. We asked him to put together a series of his favorite photos. One thing he imparted was most of his top pics were emotional or candid moments, not action shots.

Let it be said that his pictures speak volumes and the captions he adds to them just refine their focus….and show his attention to his trade and the passion behind it. Thanks Matt.


The Posse

1)  The Posse.  This was taken in July 2006 at a game in Chicago’s Toyota Park.   it was pretty cold and rainy that night and DCU had been losing for most of it.   Pretty much out of nowhere, Eskandarian scored a late goal and we stole a draw.   After a rowdy celebration (the goal was right in front of Section 8) the stadium went quiet.   The players turned and walked back to the center to restart play.   This was the core of DCU that year, and the toughness and togetherness of that team comes through in the image.

Update: Alecko Eskandarian weighed in on Twitter this morning on the picture above:  “Thats awesome. Definitely one of my favorite pictures of all time. They should have never broke that team up…”



2) Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez celebrating Jaime’s chipped PK down the middle vs. Chivas USA.   These two were unstoppable that year, and DCU played some beautiful soccer.


More Moreno

3)  DCU played Chivas of Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champions Cup in March 2007.    Conditions were terrible – it was freezing cold and the rain was bucketing down.   I almost gave up shooting because my hands were so cold.  I’m glad I stayed.   In this shot, Martinez knocked down Jaime Moreno from behind.   Moreno got up very angry, and I thought he was going to pop Martinez.   The only thing in focus in the entire image is Jaime’s eyes.


4) DC United had more skilled players, but nobody could match the heart of Ben Olsen.   He remains my favorite DCU player of all time.  Had he not been badly injured while on loan to Nottingham Forest, I’m convinced he’d have left a huge mark on the national team.    I took this image during the lineups in New York.  Benny had his game face on.



5)  During the bedlam that was Beckham’s first trip to DC (the first match in which he actually took the field)  all the photographers were roped off away from the players.   I walked some distance away and my angle made it look as though there was nobody else around.   I  caught Becks in this reflective moment just before kickoff.  (In technical terms, this is probably my best portrait ever.)



6)  USA – Costa Rica at RFK stadium, Oct 2009.   A memorable night for a couple of reasons.  First, the USA clinched qualification for WC 2010.  Second, it was right after Charlie Davies’ car accident, and I got this shot of the CD9 celebration.


Timmy Qualified

7)  USA – Costa Rica.   This shot of Timmy celebrating after the game was a quieter moment in the euphoria in the stadium that night.


Bonus: Matt & I had this discussion after he submitted his piece.

TSG: Was a big Ben Olsen fan myself by the way…

Matt: Since you like Benny, here’s one more shot that I didn’t include in my original set because it isn’t very clear.  It’s a powerful moment, though.   In 2005, Olsen had been trying to come back and play.   He wasn’t fit enough, his ankle wasn’t strong enough, and he couldn’t continue.

He was in tears coming off the field, and Piotr Nowak (a notorious tough guy) consoled him on the sideline.   I wish I’d had a better camera and longer lens at the time.  I love this shot, and I get emotional seeing it even today.

TSG: Do I have permission to include the comments in your post — this is a GREAT shot…

Benny Out

Matt: Sure, that’d be awesome.   I’m glad you like it.   It’s one of my favorites.

One more:

Matt: Shit, I left off my favorite shot of all time from that original list!

In 2008, Santino Quaranta was recovering from a three-year addiction to prescription pain-killers – the side-effect of a series of surgeries – and had begged his team, DC United, for one last chance.   They gave it to him, and he came back to the team determined to make it.
In the US Open Cup semifinal at RFK, DCU played the NE Revolution, and Tino scored a vital goal.   As he continued his run towards where I was standing on the end line, I noticed he had tears in his eyes.    I wanted to get a shot of him against the supporters, so I ran with him along the end line, shooting all the while.
He stopped, and looking up, threw his arms upwards.    It really wasn’t the typical joy you see when a player scores a goal.   It was as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.  This is the shot I got.

Tino Jesus

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bob on 2010/05/20 at 12:50 AM

    This is GREAT stuff! Awesome pics and captions! I hope he gets the pass for Philly. Anyone else from the TSG community going to the Philly game? I am bringing the whole family to our first USMNT game ever. I wanted to get tickets in the Outlaws section, but my wife refused since our boys are 7 and 2 lol.


    • Posted by Colin on 2010/05/20 at 5:31 AM

      Yup, I will be there too….supporters section. Itll be my 4th USMNT match (they dont come to the midwest very often…except for WC qualifiers against Mexico in February)


    • Posted by Phil on 2010/05/20 at 6:32 AM

      i will be in philly in the outlaws section. ready to GET SOME!


    • Posted by Brad on 2010/05/20 at 7:02 AM

      Me too, I’m in the nosebleed section but excited as hell anyway.


      • Posted by Freegle on 2010/05/20 at 7:55 PM

        Midfield, opposite the benches, 3rd row… trying to rile up one of the “cell phones and soccer mom’s” sections. Make some noise!!!! I am also looking forward to the obligatory video montage a la the one post-Estonia in Hartford in ’06. The whole atmosphere is going to be spectacular. See you all there!


  2. Simply brilliant stuff. Matt, amazing work my friend.


  3. Saw several of your pictures in Vanity Fair’s Soccer Shots (I got a few in there, too!) and this stuff is fantastic as well.

    Can’t wait to see more.


  4. Posted by Colin on 2010/05/20 at 5:34 AM

    Is there any way we could get a link to the CD9 image in a higher resolution…I want to make it my background.

    I really like the posse and the tino jesus images.


  5. Posted by Applesauce on 2010/05/20 at 8:18 AM

    Superb shots.


  6. Posted by dude on 2010/05/20 at 8:33 AM

    DC United!!! clap clap clap clap clap clap.

    Kind of hurts to see when we were more legit.


  7. Posted by itally on 2010/05/20 at 9:09 AM

    Fantastic work — keep it up!


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/20 at 9:44 AM

    These are amazing Matt. Better than anything I can do (I bought a dSLR (500D) 6 months ago and am still messing with it. I like the portrait. Especially how you have the object in focus and the rest out-of-focus. But they are all great in their own way.


  9. Posted by Shane_K83 on 2010/05/20 at 10:23 AM

    I wish we could clone Benny Olson’s heart, not the most skilled, but hey who needs skill when you got heart..


  10. Thanks to all for the kind words. For those who have asked, both here and elsewhere, I’ve sent Matt a larger version of the CD9 shot that’ll work as a wallpaper.

    GeorgeCross, re: your comment about the blurred-out backgrounds, welcome to the wonderful world of Depth of Field. It’s a fascinating topic (if you’re a photographer) and it can bring the viewer’s attention to the subject of the photo pretty dramatically. In the case of the Beckham shot, there’s nothing to look at in the picture OTHER than his face, which is the intent. The effect is achieved by using lenses with wide apertures. (I shot the Becks image at f/2.8 to emphasize the blurring.) Sadly, those lenses are significantly more expensive. Significantly.

    Finally, a few people asked me via email where my seats were that’d allow me to get such closeups. It’s true that there are some ‘dream seats’ or whatever they call them that are right on the sidelines, but folks in them are typically not allowed to bring in big pieces of camera gear. I have media credentials that allow me to shoot from the end lines. Most of those shots were taken from within 30 feet from the subject.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/21 at 7:21 AM

      Sorry for the sidetrack every one:

      Matt, thanks for the tutorial. I am very new to photography (graduating from the point-and-shoot, to understanding the difference between macro, potrait and so on with an SLR). I am a beginner and it’s a hobby for now, but I’m not sure Mrs Cross would sanction buying said expensive lenses etc! We’ll see if I can get some amazing shots on safari next month, maybe she’ll be open to it…


      • No more hijacking after this, Matt, sorry.

        George, you’re going on safari? Damn, I envy you. That’s on my list to do.

        You might consider renting some long lenses to take on the trip, It’s usually pretty cheap to do. Well, it is in the US. Places like and . I’m sure equivalent sites exist in the UK.

        If you have any other questions that I might be able to answer, just get in touch with me off-line.


  11. Posted by Roach on 2010/05/21 at 3:16 PM

    Damn… I love DCU. i’ve always enjoyed the pics i’ve seen from matt m. good stuff bro… nostalgic as hell looking at those.


  12. Posted by Anonymous on 2010/05/23 at 2:04 AM

    The glory days…It’s like all of our history, captured with a few perfect pictures. Awesome.


  13. […] The TSG community bore witness to the incredible eye of Matt Mathai late last week. Visionary, seriously, read […]


  14. Posted by Koshy Mathai on 2010/07/02 at 9:11 AM

    he ain’t heavy. he’s my (older) brother!


  15. […] » Meet Matt Mathai: Moments Spoken In Picture […]


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