Photo: Earl Gardner
Editor’s note: At the end of the first two Philadelphia Union seasons, we posted a series of end of the season reviews of every Union player. Over the next several weeks, PSP continues with a review of the 2012 season.
The Sophomore Slump. That dreaded second year trough that can strike any young player.
For second-year Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, 2012 saw his form take a hit. Some of the reasons were out of his control: The departure of his mentor Faryd Mondragon, the trading of leader and defensive stalwart Danny Califf, and two concussions. But, MacMath’s problems also are product of his youth, as he is still growing into the role of MLS goalkeeper.
MacMath turned 21 during the season and in goalkeeper terms that is extremely young. It is a rare thing for a someone as young as Zac to grab the position by the horns and run with it. But that was exactly what he was asked to do when Mondragon headed back to Colombia in the offseason. While he showed some of the attributes that made him a first round pick, the growing pains were many.
A 3-0 win against Toronto at home. It was probably the team’s most comfortable win and MacMath posted his fifth shutout of the season, a shutout Zac secured with a strong save late in the game against Ryan Johnson. He finished the season in a five-way tie for fourth in the league with eight shutouts.
The long-distance goal he surrendered to to New England’s Saer Sene. While the Union won the game, a goal from distance like that can never be good for a keeper’s confidence, especially a young one. Also, picking up two concussions is a concern. Teams and players in all sports are extra vigilant when it comes to head injuries, so the team will pay close attention to their starting keeper.
He is surely a solid shotstopper, making some pretty good reaction saves through the year. And for a guy who is listed as 6′ flat—a bit short for his position—he is good at going into a crowd and grabbing a cross.
Communication and decision making are probably the two biggest holes in MacMath’s game. Maybe Union fans were spoiled by Mondragon and his near constant conversations with his defense. MacMath speaks nary a word during games. There is surely a difference in personality between the two keepers, but Zac needs to be more vocal with his defense. He also needs to pick his spots when coming off the line. Too many times the Union’s box resembled a fire drill because MacMath decided to shoot off of his line at an inopportune time.
There was a lot of hand wringing over MacMath’s form this year, and rightly so. His struggles mirrored the struggles of the Union. But, he still possesses all the skills need to be a MLS keeper. Experience is need, though. Also, some help may be on the way. Recently on the KYW Philly Soccer Show, Coach John Hackworth said the team is seriously considering bring in a veteran back up, not only to play when pressed into service, but one who can be a mentor to the young keeper.
Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards