CHESTER, Pa. – As frustrated and disappointed as Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was after his starting debut Wednesday, he was equally content following Saturday’s 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers at PPL Park.
“It was,” MacMath said, “like night and day for me.”
Indeed, just 72 hours after surrendering four goals in the first half of his first MLS start – Philly’s 4-4 draw with the Revolution – the rookie was in excellent form on this night, making four saves to earn his first career shutout.
“Every goalkeeper want to get a shutout every game,” MacMath said. “We take a lot of pride in that – especially I do.”
While MacMath wasn’t at fault for some – maybe even any – of the four goals Philly surrendered versus New England, the University of Maryland product still looked sharper in his second start. He made a handful of important stops while thwarting other dangerous chances from Portland.
“He looked a lot more confident,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “As the more games come, he’s going to get more and more confidence. He came up big for us when we needed him.”
At no point did MacMath come up bigger than in the final minutes of the first half when he stopped Portland’s Jorge Perlaza from point-blank range after Perlaza beat Union defender Carlos Valdés to free himself in the box. It turned out to be a game-saving block.
“He didn’t have much of an angle so I tried to close him down as quick as possible,” MacMath said. “Luckily, I got my foot to it.”
In addition to his shot-stopping abilities, MacMath also helped to dictate the game by aggressively coming off the goal line to scoop up crosses or force Portland into rushed shots. After the match, Union manager Peter Nowak pointed to one specific play early in the second half when MacMath challenged a wide-open Sal Zizzo, whose quick chip shot never had a chance.
“They’re a quick team and they were trying to counter us and get balls behind the back line,” MacMath said. “So I was trying to stay high off my line and trying to help the defense out as much as possible.”
MacMath also noted his communication was far better this time around with the backline in front of him. The defense, in general, did a far good job all night in limiting Portland’s chances and helping Philly walk away with their eighth shutout of the season.
“Before the game, we watched a bunch of videos and were looking at things we could do better,” MacMath said. “I took that to heart and we looked a lot better and communicated a lot better.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.Follow @DaveZeitlin