CHESTER, Pa. – Before the 2012 season began, Zac MacMath set a personal goal: to earn 10 shutouts in his first year as a starting MLS goalkeeper.
With one week left in the season, it’s a goal that’s in his sights. To get there, the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper needs two clean sheets in the team’s final three games.
“Everyone sets individual goals as well as team goals,” MacMath (above, right) told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s on my priority list for individual goals. It’s something I hope to reach.”
MacMath’s most recent shutout – his eighth of the season – came in the Union’s 1-0 win over New England last Saturday.
Before that, it had been more than a month before his last clean sheet – which, perhaps not coincidentally, also came against New England, a team the Union have always had great success against.
“It’s big-time,” MacMath said of last weekend’s three-save effort. “It had been a while. I’m happy to get one under my belt and I’m trying to close out the season with as many shutouts as I can.”
MacMath preserved the Union’s shutout – and their second straight win – with a diving stop on a Ryan Guy header in the 85th minute. Other times this season, the Union haven’t been as fortunate, often giving up goals late in the first half or the second half to lose leads.
That’s something the Philly defenders are well aware of, heading into games against Houston (Oct. 20), Sporting Kansas City (Oct. 24) and New York (Oct. 27) to close the season.
“I feel like we owe Zac one for a couple of deflections or lucky breaks or goals in the final five minutes of halftime or at the end of the game,” center back Amobi Okugo said. “I talked to Zac and told him we’ve got to get him two more because that was his goal at the beginning of the season. I know we have some tough games with three playoff contenders but I feel like we can do it.”
MacMath will be the first to say there were some ups and downs for him this year, especially with commanding the box and dealing with balls in the air. But among full-time starters, the second-year goalie out of Maryland currently ranks sixth in the league in goals-against average (1.21) and is tied for fourth in shutouts.
If he can get to a double-digit number of shutouts, it would make his debut season as a starter seem even better.
“It’s definitely a disappointing season regardless,” MacMath said. “Personally, [getting 10 shutouts] would feel good and gives me something to shoot for next year and continue to build on.
“I’m hoping to actually get 11,” he added.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.