At a conference call Monday afternoon, Zac MacMath talked to reporters about his first half in MLS, how he found out he was going in, and what he needs to do to help the team reach the playoffs.
“I didn’t really know for sure til 7-8 mins left in halftime,” MacMath said. “I was already out there warming up in case and then our goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian came out and just starting warming up and everything and that’s when I knew I was going in. I was a little nervous during halftime warming up but once I got out there I felt comfortable and confident and pretty good.
“I was excited,” MacMath continued. “I was, obviously, looking to help the team because we were already down 2-1 and that was the most important thing, trying to get the team back into the lead or into a tie. And the only thing I wanted to do was make sure we didn’t give up any other goals and make it harder on ourselves.”
MacMath made three saves—including one a sprawling effort on a Fabian Espindola breakaway—in the second half of Saturday’s game.
“It was good to kinda get my debut,” he deadpanned. ”Obviously not the way I wanted to get it with Faryd getting hurt and the team suffering a loss, but definitely takes some of the nerves away and I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable if I do get the start on Wednesday.”
Faryd Mondragon had played every minute of the 2011 season before leaving at halftime with a hand injury. The Union’s website quotes Peter Nowak as saying when asked about the extent of Mondragon’s injury, “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.” And though you would think the club’s official website would be able to talk to the team’s doctor… apparently not.
But with a midweek game against New England, all signs point to the rookie MacMath getting his first MLS start. The first round pick said, “a few of the guys just came up and said ‘good luck’” when the second half started. “They didn’t need to say much. They wanted to tell me that I was ready and to just go out there and enjoy it.”
MacMath said he has spent a lot of time with Mondragon this season and feels like he is prepared to step into the starter’s role. “Every day we talk about different situations and different things. Most days after the game we look at video and see the goals that the team gave up and we go through them and see what he might have done wrong or what the defense might have done wrong in order to get a different perspective on how to help the team.”
Asked to assess his performance against Real Salt Lake, the American keeper was modest. “I thought I did OK, I thought it was a little bit sloppy on a couple of saves. I thought the one on Espindola when Danny had to clear it off the line, I probably could have held onto it a little bit. Overall, my main goal was to keep the team in the game and I thought I did that.”
MacMath said that Mondragon’s influence has been a big part of the team’s success this season, and he intends to follow the Colombian’s blueprint. “Being vocal is one of the reasons we’ve had such great back lines this season,” he said, ”And I have to take over the role and be very loud and communicate with the back line and the midfielders.”
And while he acknowledged a few butterflies before the whistle blew, MacMath said he doesn’t feel any more pressure than the rest of the guys in the locker room. “There’s a little bit of added pressure because we are in the playoff race and need some points in the next couple of games, but I don’t think that’s going to affect me or be added pressure to me personally.
“I think it’s pressure the team has already had the past couple of weeks looking for points.”
The Union will look to break out of a second half slump Wednesday night against New England at PPL Park.