Aug 12, 2014; Frisco, TX, USA; Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) makes the match winning save against FC Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa (not pictured) during the U.S. Open Cup at Toyota Stadium. Philadelphia defeated FC Dallas 4-3 on penalty kicks. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Philadelphia Union had never beaten FC Dallas ahead of their US Open Cup Semfinal match on Tuesday, Well, technically the Union still haven’t but advanced to the final behind Zac MacMath’s heroics in the penalty shootout. In the end, Philadelphia tied Dallas 1-1 and advanced in penalty kicks 4-3.
MacMath was on his game before the penalty shootout. Dallas’ lone goal came off dismal team play not MacMath. His “aggressiveness” was not to blame for the goal. Dallas is known for sending up long balls and getting in behind the defense. They did it on countless occasions Tuesday. However, MacMath stepped up big time and cut off many angles and made some key saves.
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In particular before the Dallas equalizer, MacMath prevented goals on at least three 1v1 situations. On the fourth attempt, he came off his line like the previous four, but the ball barely got past him and into the net.
Without MacMath’s aggressiveness, the Union would have been flying home Wednesday without a win and the right to host the US Open Cup Final on September 16th. Instead, the Union are 90 (or more) minutes away from winning the club’s first trophy in their five-year existence. The defense was solid at times against Dallas. However, MacMath saved the day countless times and kept the team alive way before penalties ensued.
After extra time ended and the score still knotted at 1-1, the game headed to penalties. MacMath was the talk of the town after it was over. The Union advanced 4-3 on PKs. They made all four of their penalty kicks, while MacMath made two saves. In penalties, teams hope their keeper can save one penalty shot. MacMath did better and saved two and sealed the deal before the Union had to take a fifth penalty.
MacMath should be getting the praise and accolades for his heroics Tuesday. However, some people will want to criticize what they believe is one mistake MacMath made that cost the Union from winning in regulation.
Well, stop with the uneducated thinking.
Yes, MacMath isn’t perfect. No human being is. However, listen to this. A 23 year-old MacMath once again stepped up to lead the Union. When the Union’s players looked deflated, tired, and the defense was in shambles, there was one stronghold- Zac MacMath.
It seems that MacMath will be losing his starting job to newly acquired Rais M’Bohli soon. However, M’Bohli had to attend to some “business off the field” according to interim manager Jim Curtin after the Union’s game against Montreal Impact. Realistically speaking, M’Bohli will need time to gel and become comfortable with the Union’s back-line. This can’t happen when M’Bohli is in practice.
After MacMath’s heroics Tuesday, there is no doubt in my mind that he earned to start in the US Open Cup final against the winner of the Seattle Sounders–Chicago Fire match. It would be a travesty if MacMath was not between the pipes at PPL Park on September 16th in front of the home crowd. Curtin would look like a fool if MacMath was not in the starting XI then. He was clearly the man of the match Tuesday and should be rewarded for his play especially in the penalty kicks.
Don’t be surprised to see MacMath start Friday against the Houston Dyanmo. For now, MacMath’s efforts Tuesday lead Philadelphia within reach of their first trophy and provided confidence and some momentum ahead of returning to league play.
In short, MacMath’s play on Tuesday should be applauded not criticized overall. He single-handedly carried the Union down the stretch when they needed it most against Dallas. Bash on MacMath all you want, but you’ll look like a fool with your pants on the ground.