Kick Off: Union playoff chances ride on rookie MacMath

Kick Off - Zac MacMath

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When they drafted Zac MacMath with the No. 5 overall pick in January’s SuperDraft, Peter Nowak and the Philadelphia Union probably didn’t think that their playoff hopes would ride on their rookie goalkeeper.

But with Faryd Mondragón out for a month with a broken finger, the 20-year-old MacMath will be the No. 1 selection for a critical stretch of matches, beginning with his first MLS start tonight against the New England Revolution tonight at PPL Park (8 p.m. ET, Galavisión). MacMath even admits: “There’s a little added pressure because we are in the playoff race.”

While Philly lost their starting goalkeeper, New England get their No. 1 back as Matt Reis returns to the lineup for a match which could represent the debut of Revs winger Moncef Zerka. “We are in dire need of some points, so we need to go in there and really put a strong defensive effort in and try and get a goal,” Reis says.

The Union played four days ago in a 2-1 road loss to Real Salt Lake but the Revolution haven’t featured in a competitive match for 17 days. The worry in New England camp is lack of sharpness: “We can’t come out flat regardless of the layoff,” defender Ryan Cochrane said.

Click here to listen to the latest edition of North America's premier soccer podcast. Taylor Twellman solves Klinsmann's biggest issue, Dominic Kinnear reveals his musical tastes, and the latest on Bob Bradley's potential move to Mexico.

The New England Revolution bring happy memories to the Philadelphia Union ahead of tonight's rescheduled match due to Hurricane Irene. The last time the Union won a league game was against the Revs back on July 17.

Although there may be 11 points separating Philly and New England in the standings, the Revs have actually racked up more points in recent matches. The Union are winless in six games with just three draws, while New England have accumulated double the amount of points in their last half-dozen league matches.

With two straight matches at home, the situation is pretty clear to Philly’s Sébastien Le Toux: “It’s simple, we just have to win games.”

That may also become the refrain for the US national team after dropping both matches of the FIFA international fixture schedule, including yesterday’s 1-0 loss in Belgium. But it’s baby steps, according to the players, who all say that more time is needed to implement Klinsmann’s new system.

Things went better for Canada as they marched along with a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. The Canadians scored two late goals in a game that was more competitive than the scoreline may suggest.

MLS is still in mourning over the loss of FC Dallas broadcaster and former player Bobby Rhine. His passing at age 35 has particularly stunned Dallas, where he had become a fixture in the soccer community. The 3rd Degree blog there dug up this video which will tell you all you need to know about what Rhine represented.

Clubs and players around the country reacted on Tuesday to the news of Rhine’s passing. Here’s what they had to say in Seattle Sounders camp.

Speaking of Seattle, head coach Sigi Schmid is earning great praise for managing a Sounders group which has scored more goals than any team in MLS but has no player among the Top 20 league scorers. "Ridiculously brilliant” is what Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer calls it.

A bit north from Schmid and the Sounders, the Vancouver Whitecaps welcomed part-owner and NBA star Steve Nash to team practice on Tuesday: “By the way I played today, they're not going to have me come back for a while,” Nash said after training.

Asked whether he ever had his owner participate in training while at Watford in England, club captain Jay DeMerit responded: “No. I don't think Elton John plays soccer too much."

But Elton John probably enjoys some “Bouna Time” every now and then. Known in MLS circles as the fan chant for New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, the Senegalese netminder has coined a different definition: "Whatever you do in life, as long as it's positive, it can be Bouna Time. … Try to do everything at your max so after, later on, you don't regret anything. That's why Bouna Time is all about [being] positive."

The Portland Timbers are not just thinking positive, but they’re also thinking ahead. Find out which African country GM and technical director Gavin Wilkinson is visiting in search of the newest talent for his club.

One MLS player who is hoping to begin racking up some international travel miles is Sporting Kansas City’s Omar Bravo, who tells ESPNDeportes.com that he wants to be considered for Mexican national team selection: “I don’t feel in any way that I’m at a lower level compared to those that are being called up. I feel I can go toe-to-toe with anyone and I say that with a lot of respect.” (SPANISH)

Bravo and Sporting Kansas City will have to contend with a Houston Dynamo side that is snapping at Sporting’s ankles in the Eastern Conference despite failing to win a single game on the road: “The next few games will determine where we will finish in the standings,” says Dynamo captain Brian Ching.

Looks who’s back on the field for D.C. United. Designated Player Branko Boskovic has begun light training and reports are that he could yet be back this season. “You have to get back, and then you have to get back,” manager Ben Olsen said.

Bob Bradley’s comeback to the coaching ranks could still happen at Santos Laguna in Mexico, according to the club’s president. “Both sides have to give some time to digest these talks and be able to form a basis for each to make their decision. We’re not ruling him out but it wasn’t planned for him to arrive and starting coaching yesterday. Several media outlets made it out to be a done deal but we were always clear about this.” (SPANISH)

Whether he gets the job or not, we can say with certainty that Marcello Matrone would never have a place on a Bradley coached side. After the Icelandic team that made highlight reels around the world for their goal celebrations, we now have Matrone, who plays in the Finnish third division. His celebrations are a little more relevant to pop culture, like this one in honor of Shakira and her “Waka, Waka” song. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Jurgen Klinsmann and Bob Bradley are the chief discussion topics on ExtraTime Radio

Another American playing in Mexico considering a move to MLS

Remembering 9/11: When soccer returned to New York


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