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MacMath credits Union defense for first career win

CHESTER, Pa. — Rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath only faced one shot on goal Saturday vs. the Columbus Crew, but he did what he needed to do to secure his second consecutive shutout and first victory as a professional.

In the 16th minute, Andres Mendoza  whose 11 goals is tied for second in the league  struck from distance with the outside of his foot. It was unclear whether the ball was headed for the side netting or if it would've been just wide, but MacMath took no chances, pushing it away for a corner kick.

While the 20-year-old from the University of Maryland wasn't forced into a ton of action, he effectively organized the defense and came off his line on several occasions to clear danger.

Ultimately, it was a night to remember for the Union’s fifth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” said MacMath in a jubilant Union locker room after a 1-0 victory over the Crew before a standing room only crowd of 18,906. “My first MLS win is an experience I had always been dreaming about. It feels great. The defense was just great in front of me and made so many plays which made my job a little easier.”

Nothing in this league comes easy as MacMath has learned.

MacMath entered the lineup for the second half of the Union’s 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake on Sept. 3 after 40-year-old All-Star Faryd Mondragon fractured his right ring finger. MacMath held RSL scoreless that half.

Then came a difficult 4-4 draw against New England on Sept. 7 in which the Union rallied from a 4-1 deficit to earn a point.

The last two matches?

Two clean sheets: a scoreless draw with Portland and this win over the Eastern Conference-leading Crew.

“I didn’t change anything with my preparation,” MacMath said. “I’ve tried to make it as normal as possible every day and have tried to relax. We have great leaders on this club and Faryd has been very helpful. Since his surgery, he comes in at halftime and gives me his two bits like staying focused and relaxed.”

No player on this club understands pressure better than midfielder Freddy Adu, who broke into the league at the age of 14 with D.C. United.

“What I was saying after the New England match and since is how important it is to feed off positive energy,” Adu said. “There is no negative energy in here at all. It’s all positive and we gave that to Zac. We know he’s a great ‘keeper because we’ve seen it. He’s in here extremely early every day working hard and it makes you feel so good to see him rewarded with his first career victory.

“We’re all so happy for him because he deserves all of us with the hard work he has put in to make it happen.”

When the final whistle was heard and the fans erupted, MacMath embraced captain Danny Califf in front of the Union’s net.

“His play shows what kind of character he has,” Califf said of MacMath. “He’s one of the most humble guys who’s always in here working hard and comes early every day doing the extra work. For him to come in and put in this type of performance and keep his head up, the confidence will be huge for him. It speaks volumes about the type of character that this kid has.”

The defense in front of him was stellar all night against a tough Columbus side.

While the record will show that MacMath earned another shutout, he was quick to repeatedly credit those in front of him.

“They were great and helped so much,” said MacMath. “I feel like I have more confidence and I’m talking more with them. It’s great for me and for the club. I’m going to enjoy this one.”