CHESTER, Pa. – Zac MacMath once again showed that he refuses to let a difficult situation affect his performance.
After being benched for the last two games – the first games he didn’t start since early in the 2012 season – the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper made three big saves to lead Philly to a crucial 1-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday.
The shutout was MacMath’s fourth of the season – and first since May 31.
“I was excited,” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s been a couple weekends since I got to play. I’m glad to be back out there and to get 90 minutes and obviously get a shutout and a win.”
MacMath got the start Wednesday because summer transfer window signing Rais Mbolhi is away with Algeria for a pair of Africa Cup of Nations group-stage qualifiers.
Mbolhi made his MLS debut in Philly’s last game a week and a half ago, which came nine days after rookie Andre Blake was given his MLS debut.
But MacMath – who, in his last game, made two shootout saves to lead Philly past Dallas in the US Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 12 – didn’t seem bothered by the three-week layoff, saying he tried to keep a “pretty good routine to not have rust coming into the game.”
“I thought there was a good chance [Oduro] was going to cut it back, so I got to the spot early,” MacMath said. “And then it was a pretty easy save because I was there, not too far off me. Thankfully, I put it in a spot where Sheanon [Williams] and Ray [Gaddis] could clear it out.”
While that save was certainly his biggest, MacMath also showed some guts to come well off his line to beat Oduro to the ball a couple of times in the first half.
According to MacMath, that was part of the gameplan.
“We knew they were gonna try to play over the top and use their speed to their advantage,” the goalie said. “I had good communication with [center backs] Ethan [White] and Mo [Edu] about staying off the line and communicating with them about balls I was going to come out for.”
As always, MacMath didn’t say much about how he’s fallen behind Mbolhi in the goalkeeping hierarchy, while still being asked to start certain games while the Algerian tends to his international commitments.
But his teammates recognize just how professional MacMath has been during all of the uncertainty that surrounds him.
“He’s been a great pro,” Williams said. “I know it’s not easy for him with the situation he’s in. But he’s taking it in stride and he knows we’re going to need him if we want to make the playoffs. And, after not being called upon for a couple games, he comes in today and comes up huge. I’m proud of him and proud of the way he’s handled everything.
“And this is not going to be the last time we’re going to need him.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.