CHESTER, Pa. – If the Philadelphia Union hope to make the playoffs, they know they’ll need to lean heavily on their goalkeeper.
Luckily for them, Zac MacMath is coming off arguably his best game of the season, making five big saves in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City last Friday. And, despite a somewhat rocky start, the Union netminder suddenly leads the league in shutouts with 11, including six in his past 10 games.
“I think the last stretch of games I’ve done much better,” MacMath said this week. “I’m still trying to get to where I should be. Obviously, last weekend was good for me confidence-wise. And hopefully I can continue that into this weekend.”
Heading into Saturday’s critical home tilt against Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live), MacMath mostly brushed off questions about his league-leading shutout total, noting that “it will mean nothing” if the team fails to make the playoffs.
But his coaches and teammates believe the recent string of shutouts, highlighted by some huge stops on SKC midfielders Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber in Friday night’s clean sheet, prove that the 22-year-old is quickly becoming one of the elite goalkeepers in MLS.
“We have a ton of confidence in Zac, there’s no question,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “For him to have that kind of performance when we really needed it … we’re proud of him and our expectation is that he plays at that level every game. He’s a young player and is growing and getting better and better.”
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The Union players have stood by their goalkeeper all along, even when he made a few blunders earlier in the year. Now, they’re pleased to see MacMath playing his best soccer heading into the final month of the regular season.
“Obviously he’s had his mistakes,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “So has everybody on this team. But he’s come up big when we needed him. And this is the biggest stretch of the season and this is when we need him most.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.