The Philadelphia Union have depth at the goalkeeper position. Due to this depth, the goalkeeper situation seems somewhat complicated. After drafting Andre Blake first overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the Union signed Algerian national team goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli during the Summer transfer window. Throughout both, Zac MacMath has shown his worth this year and been key to why the Union are in the midst of the playoff push with a chance of clinching the franchise’s second berth.
So with Blake, M’Bohli, MacMath all on the Union roster, many are asking who should start?
It seems like once M’Bohli returns to training this week after dealing with off-field business, he will be the starter for the Union’s August 24th match against the San Jose Earthquakes. However, MacMath, not Blake not M’Bohli, should be the starting goalkeeper through the rest of the 2014 MLS season.
Recently, MacMath has been in form and on a hot streak. In his last five MLS starts, MacMath has only given up seven goals and the Union went 2-0-3 in that streak. In Tuesday’s Open Cup action, MacMath was critical to the Union advancement past FC Dallas and into the final via penalty kicks. In regulation, MacMath was forced to save see 1v1 opportunities.
On the fourth opportunity, FC Dallas equalized. However, MacMath was not to blame. Sebastien Le Toux turned the ball over in the midfield and the Union’s defense was caught off guard. This forced MacMath off his line aggressively and came close to making the save.
In addition to his recent streak of solid play, MacMath has developed chemistry with the defense and starting XI. While M’Bohli is dealing with off-field issues, MacMath is developing that chemistry further. MacMath and the defense have clicked well for the most part this season.
Bringing in M’Bohli as the starter would drastically change that chemistry. M’Bohli needs to learn the tendencies of his defense and get on the same page as them. MacMath has already done this and it has shown on the field.
Throughout the season, MacMath has won the Union critical points. In the push for clinching their first playoff berth since 2011, the Union need MacMath in net in order to secure a playoff berth. Blake is talented but his decision making is very raw. He is a rookie goalkeeper after all. M’Bohli may be a World Cup star for Algeria, but he hasn’t done anything grand at the club level. Playing mostly on the club level in Bulgaria, M’Bohli has not done anything impressive.
Since the 2014 World Cup, M’Bohli hasn’t played a lick of soccer for the Union or anyone else for that matter. On the other hand, MacMath has been playing every week, is game fit, and in-form.
Curtin should make the wise decision to keep MacMath the starter through the remaining of the season. M’Bohli should not have been signed in the first place, but that’s in the past now. MacMath will only be motivated more if he remains the starter and M’Bohli is lurking as the back-up.
If I was the Union manager, I would do the following. Start MacMath, M’Bohli is the back up, and you send Blake out on loan to get experience. In the off-season, MacMath would be traded and M’Bohli and Blake battle for the starting gig.
In 2014, the Union must rely on MacMath as starting goalkeeper. If not, there season will end like 2012 and 2013 did – on the outside looking in once the playoffs begin.