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Season review: Zac MacMath

Photo: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: At the end of the 2010 season, we posted a series of season reviews of every Philadelphia Union player. Over the next several weeks PSP continues with a review of the 2011 season.

When the Philadelphia Union took goalkeeper Zac MacMath as their first round pick in the 2011 MLS Superdraft, many a fan and pundit were left saying “Huh?” Weeks before, the team made Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon their first major signing. And Brad Knighton’s late-season form made him a shoe-in for the number 2 slot. Surely, the team could have used to pick to fill other holes. But, not long after the draft, Knighton was released and MacMath was placed firmly behind the the big Colombian. So the 2011 session started with the rookie MacMath as the back up, and the question lingered: “If called upon, could the kid perform?”

When Mondragon went down with a broken finger at Real Salt Lake, MacMath (despite a bumpy first half against New England) answered with a resounding yes.

Highlights

Just take a look at the numbers. 3–0–4 as a started with three shutouts. MacMath backstopped the Union to some of it’s best form last season, including the massive win at Seattle where he out dueled Kasey Keller for the victory. With each passing game, MacMath grew stronger before our eyes and justified the Union’s decision to take him as their top pick.

Lowlights

First half against New England at home. Four goals allowed in 45 minutes. Granted, he had little chance on any of these goals, as the defense abandoned him for the first 45, but I doubt that is the way he imagined his first professional start would go. A half like that can destroy a rookie, but MAcMath kept his head up and shut out the Revs in the second half as the defense finally settled down. And that second half seemed to springboard hims, and the rest of the team, to a seven game unbeaten run.

Strengths

MacMath’s positioning is pretty solid, and he was rarely seen wandering about. He has strong hands and catches a ball cleanly with little drama. Probably the biggest revelation was his distribution. He kicks were always pretty straight and true and he was able to get some positive results when restarting play from the back.

Weaknesses

Listed at six feet tall, MacMath lacks that imposing frame of some other top goalkeepers. (Having said that, plenty of keepers in MLS and elsewhere thrive despite being on the smaller side. Nick Rimando and Shay Given come to mind.) While his communication with his defense improved the more he played, it still needs some work.

Outlook

When pressed into duty, Zac MacMath looked every bit a first-round draft pick. He played well through what could have been a very tough stretch for the Union. When asked on the KYW Philly Soccer Show, coach John Hackworth hinted that MacMath could see some more time between the posts next season. But, juggling goalkeepers can be a delicate act, and it might be hard to justify sitting Mondragon if he is playing well just to get MacMath playing time. MacMath is already garnering some looks from the national team, with call ups to the U-20 and U-23 squads and the U-23 call up could mean he is heading to London this summer for the Olympics. That would put him in the shop window for many a European scout to see. Hopefully, with Mondragon turning 41 this season, MacMath can stay in the Union fold for a little longer and slide into the number 1 jersey when the Dragon is ready to call it a career.

*Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards

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