Under the radar: Philadelphia Union's Zac MacMath stringing together impressive performances

CHESTER, Pa. – Portland Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts may have nabbed most of the headlines for a save on Conor Casey that Philadelphia Union coach Rob Vartughian labeled “world-class.”

But on the other end of the field, a little bit more quietly, Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath also enjoyed a big-time performance in Saturday’s scoreless draw between Philly and Portland at PPL Park.

“I think this was one of my best games of the season, right up there with Chicago [on May 11],” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “It’s something to build on. Hopefully I – and the team – can continue to have strong performances like this.”

While none of his saves were quite as good as Ricketts’ leaping stop of a Casey blast in the 71st minute, MacMath made four stops to earn the shutout, including a couple of shots from point-blank range.

His best one probably came in the 55th minute when Portland’s Diego Valeri was able to turn and fire a shot on goal from less than six yards away. Earlier, he managed to stop a similar close-range shot from Ryan Johnson.

“It’s all about positioning,” MacMath said. “Thankfully, I was in the right spot at the right time a couple of times tonight.”

MacMath has always been a very good shot-stopper but has struggled, at times, commanding the box and dealing with crosses since becoming the Union’s full-time starter in 2012.

Partly because of those struggles, Hackworth signed 39-year-old Oka Nikolov last month to push the 21-year-old MacMath for the starting spot. But MacMath has firmly held onto his spot, playing some of his best soccer of the year since the signing.

He now has six shutouts on the season and 17 in his career, passing D.C. United’s Bill Hamid (16 shutouts) for the most shutouts before the age of 22 in MLS history.

“I thought he was very decisive and commanding in his plays tonight,” Union captain Brian Carroll said. “He came up huge a couple of times and was solid the rest of the match.”

“You need to have your goalie come up big in certain situations,” winger Danny Cruz added. “And he’s done that a few times this year.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

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