Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Zac MacMath

Photo: Earl Gardner

Zac MacMath is a young goalkeeper. Conventional wisdom says that keepers don’t reach their peak until their late 20s or early 30s, and many of the best play well into their late 30s. Zac MacMath is 22 years old. That said, conventional wisdom has been changing. In Europe, keepers like David De Gea (also 22, and starting for Manchester United) and others are proving that youth is no impediment to excellence in goalkeeping.

As has been noted here at PSP, MacMath has in his short career been a solid, if unspectacular, net-minder. While his clean sheets total, especially this season, has been impressive, and his shot-stopping has always been a strength, few people would have claimed that MacMath was one of the top keepers in MLS. He made the saves he was expected to make, made relatively few errors, but he didn’t win games for you. He didn’t make the eye-popping save where everyone in the stadium thinks, “That’s a goal,” except it’s not, because his big paw got in the way.

Against Kansas City, that all changed.

Having won none of their last five games, the Union traveled to KC, a place where they had never before won and home of arguably the best team in MLS, needing a win. Even as John Hackworth tried to play down expectations, everyone knew that if the playoffs were to be a reality, not just a dream, three points were required.

Hackworth switched the lineup around a little bit, and the Union played a little better — maybe — than they had recently. Not a lot better, but a little. Sporting were clearly the better team, but the defense held firm.

And there was MacMath, his two big paws getting in the way of things.

The Union even managed to score a goal, something it seemed they’d forgotten how to do. Would they score another? Let’s not get crazy. And so, the game became a test: Who was better on the day, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, et al, or Zac MacMath and his defense?

But while Feilhaber and Co. tried their darnedest, MacMath had hung a sign out that read, “None shall pass.”

MacMath made the easy saves, sure. He came for crosses, even after getting decked. He saved free kicks, shots from open play, and shots that were deflected. He even made a handful of those, “That’s a goal!” saves, breaking poor Benny Feilhaber’s heart on multiple occasions. He did everything expected of an MLS goalkeeper, and a lot more. Simply put, there wasn’t much he could have done better.

Is this MacMath’s new level? Is this his ceiling or another step up on the way to further heights? Nobody knows, of course. But what is known is that MacMath has it in him to be very, very good—maybe great.

Zac MacMath won the Union a game. A very, very important game. That’s why he’s PSP’s Player of the Week.

10 Comments

  1. I especially like the “None shall pass” reference given that my wife and I went to see Spamalot at the Media Theatre yesterday 🙂

  2. Good choice. Have been saying for a long time that Zac deserves more credit than he gets.

  3. I thought that he was done when he wrapped himself around the goalpost in the first half making that save. Since Zac has remembered how to punch a ball clear, and own the air in the box, he has shown himself in a much better light than when he was trying to get both hands on everything. You raise the best point about this- at his age, he still has a lot of learning to do, and he is showing good progress.

    • Great point about the punching. Everything changed after that one game when he cost a goal by trying to catch when he should have punched. He learned the lesson well.

  4. Totally agree. In this game, he was outstanding. I’m not too excited about the shutout record, since I think a lot of the credit goes to tactics and a very good backline. I wonder if his save pct% has come up from the bottom of the league after this match?

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      I can’t say how much his save percentage has come up (probably not by too much after one game and, anyway, the league site is very annoying when it comes to finding such info by date), but here’s how the 17 keepers who have played 20 or more games are ranked by save percentage:

      1. Rimando (73%)
      2. Ricketts (72%)
      3. Busch, Irwin, Gspurning, Gruenebaum (71%)
      4. Robles, Perkins (69%)
      5. Hall, MacMath, Fernandez (68%)
      6. Nielsen, Shuttleworth (67%)
      7. Hamid (66%)
      8. Kennedy (65%)
      9. Bendik (64%)
      10. Cudicini (57%)

  5. MacMath’s level of play has increased dramatically since the Union added Oka Nikolov, a veteran keeper from the German Bundesliga, earlier in the season. I don’t know if it’s the increased competition, the fact that Nikolov has been a coach and mentor to MacMath, or maybe it’s just a coincidence. Whatever the reason, I think a look into the relationship between the two would be a great topic for a future story on PSP.

  6. T’was a great performance by Zac. My only gripe is that he goes to ground a bit too often in hopes of getting a penalty. He should stand tall and leave the embellishment to the position players.

  7. Finally, my boy gets some respect.

  8. The credit deserves to go to the back four and not MacMath. Go online and watch the short highlight videos of the last few shutouts (including the SKC game). Zac does nothing out of the ordinary – the shots on goal are either from way outside as the offensive player is being closely marked or they are weak and or weak headers directly at a stationary MacMath. Zac is nothing more than an average keeper but he HAS improved since Oka got here.
    .
    Looking at the SKC game in particular as it is fresh in our memories:
    .
    The free kick is not hit hard – Zac does not even have to dive. He is essentially upright on his feet and it is a comfortable save that ANY pro keeper would make.
    .
    Second shot on goal from Feilharber is weak and is right at MacMath (Robbie Earl siad it was “a little disappointing… didn’t get enough on it.. it was a routine save”.
    .
    Third is Zusi 20 yards out, on his weaker foot, and it is underhit – MacMath again doesn’t really have to move much because the defenders had kept Zusi way out and forced the shot back towards the center of goal.
    .
    Finally he gets lucky when he comes and punches – it is a weak punch that goes right to an SKC attacker.
    .
    For me the back four deserve player of the week. MacMath had very little to do with it.

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