Goalkeeping spot still a question for Philadelphia

Faryd Mondragón and Zac MacMath

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a draw vs. Toronto FC on Saturday at PPL Park (4 pm ET, TSN, MatchDay Live).

That much they know. Who will be in goal still seems to be a mystery.

During a conference call on Friday, Union manager Peter Nowak dodged questions about who his starting goalkeeper would be for Saturday’s regular-season home finale.

Captain Faryd Mondragón started the first 25 games of the season before breaking his finger, opening the door for rookie Zac MacMath, who’s been unbeaten in seven starts to help Philadelphia (11-7-14, 47 points) climb into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Nowak said Mondragón has been training all week and is 100 percent healthy but would not commit to the 40-year-old all star, perhaps in part because of how well MacMath has performed since being called into duty.

“There are a lot of factors,” Nowak said. “The most important thing for me is we bring the same kind of motivation, concentration and energy to the game like we have the past several weeks. And if not, we’ll have a difficult time.”

No matter who patrols the net, Nowak seemed wary about a Toronto squad that will come into PPL Park looking to play the role of spoiler. For the Union manager, it hardly mattered that the Reds (6-13-13) have long been eliminated from the playoff race and that the last time these two teams met – in Toronto – the Union coasted to a 6-2 victory.

“I think they are much better,” Nowak said. “Defensively, they are very sound. They basically play with three center backs and five across the line in the backline. And they have very dangerous strikers, as well.

“They have nothing to lose. Teams that don’t have anything to lose are the most dangerous. So we have to be really careful.”

The Union may still have a chance to earn a playoff berth over the weekend regardless of their result against TFC. If there is a winner between the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo and the New York Red Bulls lose to Sporting KC, Philadelphia are in. But for their final regular-season game at PPL Park, the Union would naturally prefer to keep their unbeaten streak alive and secure a spot in the postseason with their home fans looking on.

“We want to give our fans a great show in the last regular-season home game,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. “If we do that and are concentrated and focused, then hopefully we can get the maximum points. That’s our number one goal going into this game.

“We want to take care of our own destiny and keep everything in our own control.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.