Philadelphia Union's Zac MacMath faces uncertain future as Rais Mbolhi set for starting GK job

CHESTER, Pa. – When the Philadelphia Union traded up to select goalkeeper Andre Blake with the top overall pick of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Zac MacMath tried to make the best of it.

The Philly goalkeeper is trying to do the same thing now that the Union made a splash in the summer transfer window with the signing of Algerian international Rais Mbolhi – but it’s been harder to hide his unhappiness when he knows that Mbohli is prepared to unseat him as the team’s starting goalie.

“It’s disappointing,” MacMath told reporters. “They told me … that when he’s ready and fit, he’ll be the No. 1. And that’s difficult. But at the same time, that’s the way it goes. And I’m going to continue to push Andre and Rais to the best of their abilities and be ready in case anything happens.”

MacMath credited interim manager Jim Curtin for being “honest with me,” noting that Curtin told him the Union were planning to sign Algeria’s World Cup goalkeeper “a few days before” it was made official last Wednesday. 

But it still caught MacMath by surprise, in large part because the 22-year-old ’keeper believes he was having a “pretty good year.”

While he’s only logged three shutouts and has a 1.64 goals-against-average, MacMath is fourth in the league with 65 saves, including penalty-kick stops in back-to-back games in April, the first of which came against reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee in stoppage time to preserve a point for Philly in Chicago.

And after an up-and-down debut season as an MLS starter in 2012, MacMath has grown more comfortable in the role over the past year and a half.

“I was taken a little bit back,” he admitted. “But this is the business. And [Mbolhi] is only going to make me better. He’s only going to make the team better, and that’s the most important part.”

Because it was so soon after the signing, Curtin opted not to bring Mbolhi to Kansas City for Friday’s game, leaving MacMath to make what was possibly his last start with the Union.

MacMath said the game was a culmination of a week that felt like an “emotional roller coaster” but was pleased he could help the team pick up a point with a 1-1 draw. And he’ll be ready to potentially start again Saturday when the Union host the Montreal Impact at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS Live).

Earlier in the week, Curtin said that the decision who to start in net this weekend “will be in Rais’ hands – whether he tells me he’s 100 percent comfortable and confident,” leaving some doubt about the timing of his MLS debut.

“You always have to be ready,” MacMath said. “As long as the coach calls my name, I’m ready.”

As for what the Mbolhi signing might mean for him down the road, MacMath didn’t speculate – but admitted it naturally doesn’t bode well for his long-term future in Philadelphia.

“I love Philly,” MacMath said. “I love the Union. And this definitely puts a little change in that. But I’m not gonna figure that out now. I’m gonna wait and let my agent do that and kind of see what happens at the end of the season.”

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