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Both highs and lows evident as MacMath era begins

Union 'keeper Zac MacMath

Photo Credit: 
Ethan Erickson/Portland Timbers

For the Philadelphia Union, it was a wild and memorable start to the Zac MacMath era.

Just not exactly in the way they had hoped.

HIGHLIGHTS: POR vs PHI

In the Union’s 2012 opener on Monday night, MacMath made a handful of brilliant saves but those were mostly overshadowed by one giant miscue and some unlucky breaks in Philly’s 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field.

“They brought it in the second half,” said the 20-year-old MacMath, who was handed the keys to the net after 2011 starter Faryd Mondragón departed for Colombia in the offseason. “We might have been a little tired, but overall once we let in the first goal we lost our confidence a little.”

Considering the scoreline, it would be easy to say MacMath had a poor game. Throw in the fact that the Timbers’ game-tying goal came when an Andrew Jean-Baptiste header squirted under MacMath in the 54th minute and it would appear to be a downright ugly performance for the second-year ’keeper.

But that was not exactly the case. With the Union’s defense backpedaling and the Timbers pressuring hard throughout the game, the second-year player looked confident and in control for much of the night, despite the brutally tough conditions at a wet JELD-WEN Field.

In the eighth minute, MacMath made a leaping, one-handed save on Eric Alexander, before charging out of his box to beat Kris Boyd to the ball in the 21st minute. In the 57th minute, the Union goalie stopped consecutive shots from close range.

MacMath later surrendered the go-ahead goal to Boyd in the 66th minute, and another score from Kahlif Alhassan in the 76th, but didn’t have much of a chance on either of those shots.

“The first one was a good header that came quick and I didn’t get a chance to react to it,” MacMath said. “The third one I was just unlucky that he got it over me.”

Monday’s result marked the first loss for MacMath, who went unbeaten in seven games as a fill-in for Mondragón last season. But for the Union, there’s no reason to panic yet.

“There are certainly a couple of goals where it is unfortunate situations,” Union defender Danny Califf said. “Overall if you look at the game, it wasn’t so poor. There were some positives both offensively and defensively. It’s their home opener and they brought it.”

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