Photo: Earl Gardner
Editor’s note: At the end of each of the last two seasons, we posted a series of “Raves” about our favorite Philadelphia players. They need not be the team’s best players, but they’re guys and gals we like. Over the next two weeks, we continue the series with some of PSP writers’ and contributors’ favorite Philadelphia players of 2012.
“Zac MacMath is a winner,” says University of Maryland Men’s Soccer Head Coach Sasho Cirovski.
He would know.
While between the sticks for Cirovski’s Terrapins, MacMath led Maryland to Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in 2008 and 2010 and a National Championship in 2008. Cirovski said this of his talented young goalkeeper, “Everywhere he’s been, he’s won. Club, college, youth, everywhere because he’s made of the right stuff.”
Without a doubt, Zac MacMath is vital part of Major League Soccer’s youngest squad and his continued growth and development as a professional goalkeeper will be critical to the Philadelphia Union’s success. He’s got all the physical tools to be a top keeper in MLS and may have what it takes to perform at a high level across the pond in Europe.
2012 saw the former captain of the Maryland Terrapins inherit the starting goalkeeper duties for the Union following the January departure of Faryd Mondragon. MacMath’s first season as the Union’s starting net minder has had it’s shares of highs and lows, but through it all MacMath has remained resolute. When our keeper made an error, he rebounded by making the clutch save to keep the Union in the match. Chants of “He’s big, he’s orange, nothing rhymes with orange,” ring out from the River End with each sensational stop. Few goalkeepers in Major League Soccer have the pure, instinctive shot stopping skills that Zac MacMath possesses.
However, the best keepers throughout the world cannot rely solely on their physical gifts. Zac does needs to improve upon things like commanding his box, focus and distribution, but those things will come with time and the patient direction of the Union’s talented technical staff.
Young keepers will struggle, it’s just a fact of life in the soccer world. Soccer By Ives took a look at the struggles and successes of the other two starting goalkeepers in MLS under the age of 23. Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid are now in their second seasons as starters for Chicago Fire and DC United respectively. MacMath’s numbers in his first season as a starter are on par or better than what his contemporaries posted in the 2011 season. MacMath’s 1.21 goals against average is better than the 1.32 goals against posted by Hamid and Johnson. With three games to play, Zac’s eight clean sheets better the seven clean sheets posted by Hamid and Johnson and ranks 5th best in MLS this season. The Union defense is the fourth stingiest in the league in goals allowed (37), trailing only the Eastern Conference front-runners Sporting Kansas City (26), Seattle Sounders (31) and Real Salt Lake (35). Each of those teams start goalkeepers that are at least 10 years older than MacMath.
To put Zac MacMath’s success for the Union in perspective, all we really need to do is look at another former Maryland goalkeeper. Chris Seitz started 22 matches for the Union in their inaugural campaign and posted a bloated 1.80 goals against average, recorded just five wins and failed to post a single clean sheet. In 36 matches as a Union starter, Zac has posted a 1.19 goals against average, 11 clean sheets and 13 wins. Perhaps more importantly MacMath exhibits the mental toughness needed to succeed in the MLS. The ‘deer in headlights’ look left town with Seitz and was replaced by the cool, calm demeanor of MacMath.
With the third season of Philadelphia Union soccer rapidly coming to a close, the future looks bright with our young and talented goalkeeper between the sticks for our Zolos. Zac MacMath is a winner and as he and his teammates grow as professionals, good times, lots of DOOP and silverware are just over the horizon.