Maryland's Zac MacMath was taken with the fifth overall pick by the Philadelphia Union on Thursday.
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Union go to Maryland well again for MacMath

BALTIMORE – For the second straight season, the Philadelphia Union have acquired a young, high-profile goalkeeper out of the University of Maryland.

This one they hope will stick.

Less than a month after losing ex-Terrapin Chris Seitz in the Re-Entry Draft, the Union selected Maryland’s star keeper Zac MacMath with the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.

While reports indicate the Union are poised to announce the signing of veteran Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon as early as next week, MacMath fills an immediate need for a team that had only one goalie on the roster – Brad Knighton – heading into the draft.

MacMath, who posted 34 shutouts through three seasons with the Terps and boasts a wealth of experience at the US U-20 international level, will now look do what the inconsistent Seitz could not: become the long-term option for Philadelphia in net.

“I want to play,” MacMath said in his Union scarf, moments after hearing his name called by commissioner Don Garber. “That’s always been my dream. I want to be a starter. But at the same time, I know there’s a process and I know there are other goalkeepers also. As a starter or as a backup, I’ll do whatever it takes to win games.”

Following the draft, manager Peter Nowak made it clear MacMath is someone the club wants to take time to develop. In other words, he represents the Union’s future and not necessarily their present.

“I think it was important for us after the departure of Chris to secure the future,” Nowak said. “We believe Zac is still growing. He still has time to get better. … We believe in a couple of years he’ll be ready to play.”

With the 23rd overall pick, the Union grabbed a college opponent of MacMath’s – University of North Carolina midfielder Michael Farfan.

Like MacMath, Farfan was a college All-American and a player who was schooled at the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla.

Even better news for Union fans: Farfan was one of the few players to score on MacMath when the Tar Heels and Terrapins met this season. The midfielder actually scored twice on the new Union keeper in a 2-1 UNC win on Sept. 24.

“I’d say I’m a creative player, I’m technical,” Farfan said. “I can’t wait.”

“It was very surprising for us to see Michael there,” Nowak said. “We were very happy to select him. … In some capacity, Michael was forgotten.”

After picking up a goalkeeper and a midfielder in the first two rounds, the Union rounded out their draft with a high-scoring forward, selecting Levi Houapeu with the 41st overall pick. Houapeu, who originally hails from Ivory Coast, scored 15 goals in each of the past two seasons for University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“Levi has great explosiveness and everyone saw it at the combine,” Nowak said, adding he was also surprised Houapeu fell that far. “A guy like that needs to be in an environment like ours, and at the end of day he will help us tremendously.”

Perhaps the most surprising part of Thursday’s draft was that the defensively challenged Union did not select a defender. But the Union brass said all week that defensive reinforcements and veteran signings are on the way.

“They’re coming,” Nowak said smiling, before walking away.

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