Banged-up Union GKs training with protective helmets

Philly 'keeper Zac MacMath

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union are bracing themselves for an important game Saturday against Toronto FC at BMO Field (4:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Literally.

Desperately looking for a win against the league’s only winless – and pointless – club, Union manager Peter Nowak has taken all precautions this week to protect his goalkeepers. Nowak had his netminders wear protective headgear during training, similar to what Carlos Valdés donned earlier this season for a league match.

Goalkeepers Zac MacMath (concussion symptoms) and Chase Harrison (left ankle sprain) are two of the players on the mend for the banged-up Union, who played without five starters for the final portion of last weekend’s game vs. FC Dallas.

“The goalkeepers right now are going to train with helmets – all of them,” Nowak said during his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “I don’t want to have any kind of problems in the future.”

WATCH: Union preview match vs. TFC

MacMath missed his first game of the season last week with concussion symptoms, opening the door for backup Chase Harrison to step in. The 28-year-old played well for 90 minutes, but also rolled his ankle and hit his head on the goalpost against against FCD. Valdés (head laceration) and midfielder Gabriel Gómez (left quad contusion) left the game with second-half injuries for Philly, who were already without left back Gabriel Farfan (right knee contusion) and Freddy Adu (red card suspension).

Nowak said he expects MacMath, Farfan and Valdés to return to the lineup this week but seemed less certain about the status of Gómez and Harrison. The need to be healthy is paramount for the Union (2-6-2), who know they can’t afford to drop points to Toronto (0-9-0), the only team beneath them in the Eastern Conference standings.

“We’re in the same boat,” Nowak said. “Both teams right now are looking to get the break for the rest of the season.”

While pleased with how his team has been playing of late in spite of the injuries, Nowak and some Philly players scoffed at the notion that Saturday’s game will be easier than others. In fact, in some ways, struggling Toronto present an even stiffer challenge because they’re just as desperate to turn things around as the Union and will hope to bring the momentum from their fourth consecutive Canadian Championship to the MLS season.

“They have no pressure on them,” Union defender Sheanon Williams said. “The only way they can look is up. They’re definitely dangerous for us. But just looking at ourselves, we need wins as well. We can’t really take anyone for granted.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.