CHESTER, Pa. – Just three days after giving up a goal he admitted he should have saved in the Philadelphia Union’s disappointing US Open Cup semifinal loss to Sporting Kansas City, Zac MacMath made up for it in a big way.
Saturday against Montreal, the Philly goalkeeper made two of the best saves of his short MLS career – both on Impact Designated Player Marco Di Vaio from point-blank range – to lead the Union to a 2-1 victory.
“Zac MacMath had an unbelievable game,” Union right back Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s probably the reason we won the game. We gave up a few more chances than we wanted to, but he came up huge.”
SAVE: MacMath stonewalls Di Vaio
Di Vaio’s first breakaway attempt came in the 35th minute after he was sprung free by a nice ball from ex-Union midfielder Justin Mapp. But MacMath got both hands on Di Vaio’s blast and left back Gabriel Farfan made sure there would be no rebound attempt for Montreal.
Later, in the 72nd minute, Philly’s second-year ’keeper made an even more remarkable save on Di Vaio, getting one hand on the Italian striker’s wide-open shot and turning to watch it skirt just around the post.
Afterwards, Di Vaio – one of the best goalscorers in the history of Serie A – put his hands up as if to say, “What else do I have to do?”
“Unfortunately, he got behind us twice, and I knew he was a good forward,” MacMath said. “But I was ready for those. It’s about making myself big, and fortunately I got an arm on both of them.”
SAVE: Di Vaio thwarted again by MacMath
MacMath could have very easily had his sixth shutout of the season, if not for a fluky Montreal goal in the 89th minute. On a Patrice Bernier corner kick, the Union goalkeeper jumped to snag the ball but watched in vain as it was accidentally headed in by teammate Keon Daniel.
MacMath later said the “communication wasn’t there” on that play but was glad to see the Union score the game-winning goal just moments later.
“It’s late in the game and guys are tired and maybe not as focused,” MacMath said. “We’ve played a lot of games in the past couple of weeks. Everyone is showing that toward the end of the game and it just happened. We’ll learn from it and try not to let it happen again.”
Even with that one case of miscommunication, MacMath still did an effective job aggressively coming off his lane to thwart the Impact’s aerial attack, as well as deputizing from the back.
And that’s the way it’s been for most of the season for the 20-year-old.
“He came up huge stopping or making an impact on some of their breakaways,” Union veteran midfielder Brian Carroll said. “And his ability on crosses to secure the ball and be solid kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. I can’t say enough about him.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.