CHESTER, Pa. — Through the first three games of the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Union were leaking goals and losing games.
It was not an easy time for Zac MacMath, Philly’s first-year starter in net.
“It was a hard pill to swallow for me,” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com. “I was making mistakes I wasn’t accustomed to making. And they were mistakes that were pretty costly to the team.”
How things have changed since then.
After starting the season 0-3, the Union have responded with a draw and two wins in their last three to move to the middle of the Eastern Conference standings. Even better for MacMath, the Union have earned three straight shutouts and haven’t allowed a goal in their last 332 minutes – a club record.
HIGHLIGHTS: Chivas 0, Union 1
“I tried to convince you all five weeks ago that he was the man who is going to be between the poles,” Union manager Peter Nowak said of MacMath. “I think some of you believed me and some of you didn’t. … I never stopped believing.”
During the scoreless streak, Philly’s backline has been exceptional. In their shutouts of Vancouver and Columbus – on March 31 and April 14, respectively – the Union allowed a total of just one shot on target.
In last weekend’s win, Chivas USA put five shots on net and applied heavy pressure in the second half when the Union went down to nine-men. But MacMath stayed poised and in control to lead Philly to yet another shutout, their most improbable one yet.
“The defensive core has been really good as a group,” MacMath said. “I obviously have not gotten a lot of shots on goals the past three games. We’re all happy about keeping the shutout.”
Since taking over as the Union’s starting ’kepeer this year, 20-year-old MacMath has talked a lot about how important it is for goalies to have confidence.
He never lost his but it’s fair to say he has a lot more of it now than he did just a few weeks ago.
“Just getting back into the routine of having a game every week and getting used to the speed of play [helps],” MacMath said. “It takes a couple of games to get back into the swing of things. With every game, you start to build confidence.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.