CHESTER, Pa. — Just as the final whistle blew on the Philadelphia Union’s wild 4-4 draw with the New England Revolution at PPL Park on Wednesday, Union veteran Danny Califf went up to rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath and did his best Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting impression.
His message: It’s not your fault.
“I told him he did a really good job,” said Califf, who was wearing the captain’s armband in place of injured ’keeper Fayrd Mondragón (broken finger). “I told him none of the goals were his fault and he stepped up and played with a lot of poise. He stood up like a man.”
While the record will show MacMath gave up four goals in his first MLS start – an inauspicious beginning by any standard – Union manager Peter Nowak agreed that the rookie shouldn’t be to blame for the Revs’ scoring barrage.
New England’s four first-half goals, after all, included two close-range headers, a penalty kick and a perfectly placed shot from Benny Feilhaber. MacMath – starting in goal in place of Mondragón, who will be sidelined for about four weeks – didn’t have much of a chance on any of them.
“It’s difficult for any ’keeper who comes on and all of a sudden there are four goals behind him,” Nowak said. “But he did very good in the second half. I think his performance overall was not bad.”
MacMath was visibly frustrated as the goals kept piling up in the first half, but Nowak noted many Union players tried to lift his spirits at the halftime break.
Then, in the second half, the Union forged a dramatic three-goal comeback to come away with a well-deserved point. MacMath gave his team the shot at the comeback by not allowing a goal in the second half, although he only had to make one save.
“I think everyone was trying to encourage me,” said MacMath, who made his MLS debut Saturday against Real Salt Lake, where he didn’t allow a goal in the second half. “Really everyone was trying to encourage each other. Being down 4-1 at half, we were all at fault.
“It was frustrating obviously,” the highly-touted rookie added. “No keeper wants to go four goals down any time, but that’s just the way it went tonight. Thankfully, we still got the tie.”
And if there’s one more positive MacMath can take from Wednesday’s game, it’s tha things will almost certainly get better.
“I think every minute is going to help me get experience,” MacMath said. “Live ball is the best thing for me. As games come, I’ll get better each one.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.