Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Zac MacMath

Photo by Earl Gardner

It’s fair to say that Zac MacMath’s professional career has been up and down.

It certainly started on a high. MacMath was taken with the Union’s first pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, and as a rookie he was mentored by Union captain and starting keeper Faryd Mondragón. Mondragón went down in September of that year, and MacMath stepped in and showed a lot of positive qualities. Some thought that he benefited from playing behind a very good defense, but the future looked bright. After the season, he spent time training with the English Premier League’s Everton FC.

During that offseason, however, Mondragón was sold, and MacMath became the de facto starter. While all agreed that he had lots of potential, there were concerns about having such a young player as the number one goalkeeper. Young keepers make mistakes and give up goals. What’s more, Mondragón was excellent at organizing the defense in front of him, while MacMath was quiet and generally reserved. It seemed like a risk.

2012, of course, was the season of Peter Nowak’s destruction. The Union still hasn’t completely recovered from it. And yet, MacMath started the season quite well, all things considered. Through the first six games, MacMath and the Union had given up only a goal a game and had a 407-minute scoreless streak going. Not too shabby. The concerns about MacMath weren’t banished, but it looked like the gamble to make him the starter was working out.

But on May 5, away to the Seattle Sounders, MacMath took a knee to the back of the head. He didn’t leave the game, but it turned out that he’d suffered a concussion. In the end, MacMath didn’t miss very much game time, but concussions are nasty things. Aside from the pain itself, the fear of suffering another one is insidious. Especially for a goalkeeper, whose job it is to fling his body at the swinging legs of other professional athletes, it would be impossible to ignore, and MacMath certainly has seemed tentative at times in the year since his injury.

Though at times MacMath has appeared strong and confident and commanding, just as often he has appeared tentative and unsure. Without a veteran mentor to keep his head straight, MacMath has been forced to work through both the growing pains of being a young professional and the fears of overcoming a type of injury that, the more we learn about them, the scarier they get. His performances in that time have rarely been terrible—he hasn’t given up the howlers some keepers have—but neither have they been inspiring. And statistically, the Union hasn’t been very good defensively, giving up more than a goal a game and keeping few clean sheets.

In recent weeks, however, MacMath seems to have settled down. He’s still young, he’s still got learning to do, but MacMath has seemed to find that confident side of himself more frequently. He makes good decisions, claims high balls with authority, and comes off his line at speed. His shot-stopping, which has always been his strong suit, continues to be very good.

And on Saturday, he did the thing that his critics have been saying he might not be capable of doing—he won the Union the game. He didn’t just make the saves expected of him, he made the saves that haunt strikers’ dreams. Sure, it was Jack McInerney’s goal that put the U in front, but had MacMath not made save after save after save, the Union don’t just not win, they lose handily. Instead, the Union have their second clean sheet of 2013 and an unlikely three points.

On Saturday, Union fans saw what MacMath could be. They saw a commanding, impenetrable wall of a keeper who was simply not willing to let his team lose. The potential’s always been there, but MacMath showed he has the ability to turn that potential into reality.

That’s why he’s PSP’s Player of the Week.

8 Comments

  1. Smackey the Frog says:

    Well said.

  2. Well, I fully agree that MacMath had a MUCH better game and is looking a little better each week, I’m not ready to let my feelings of doom completely go away…
    .
    He had a “good” game.. a game where he saved the shots he should have… I can’t say he made any saves that that a pro keeper should not have… and he did turn his back and “flinch” on that one point blank shot in the first half that he was LUCKY to save…
    .
    What Zak did was not lose the game for the Union, which is an improvement, but we are not out of the woods yet…

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      Well, I think he did a little better than that, obviously, but you’re right that it’s a process. A few weeks of improved performances is no guarantee of future success. But we know he _can_ do it, which is great to see.

    • LOL.
      He was already on the ground and turned his body in an attempt to do something.
      He didn’t “turn his back and flinch.”
      It was like, 95% lucky and more on the striker for picking a terrible spot, but LOL at trying to turn it into a terrible-sounding “he was scared!” moment.
      It was a scramble and he basically threw what he could at the ball.

      • Maybe I’m being a little harsh on Zak.. but yea.. it was “something”, but what it was not was a confident looking… to me he was almost looking back to the net expecting to see the ball there..

  3. Zac’s kit ranked

    3. Green kit (ugly)
    2. Orange kit (iconic but pylonesque)
    1. White kit saw it only once this year but it really looks sharp.

    yea I probably forgot one…

  4. Also does ha always look like he could use a few hours of sleep? Those dark circles around his eyes.

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