Zac MacMath played the role of hero in stoppage time parrying away and covering up a Mike Magee penalty kick to help the Union preserve a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire.
On a blustery day at Toyota Park, a see-saw of a match resulted in the Union coming away with a road point, but feeling the sting of not securing three due to a late goal in the 86th minute from Chicago’s Juan Luis Anangono.
“As a coach these kinds of games are really hard to participate in,” said Union manager John Hackworth, postgame. “Clearly Chicago threw everything they could to get back into this game and full credit to them, but I am not pleased with our team at all and the way we dealt with that.”
A frustrating affair considering the Union (1-1-3, six points) fought their way back following a goal from Chicago’s Mike Magee in the 16th minute. Union midfielder Maurice Edu would strike first in 32nd, when he thumped a low driver to the far post of Chicago’s (0-1-4, four points) Sean Johnson. Seven minutes later, Leo Fernandes would notch his second of the season with a delicious in-swinging free kick that again duped Johnson. It would be the first time in 14 matches dating back to last season in which the Union scored more than a goal or fewer.
A testament to chances created not just in this match, but all season – followed by the woe of letting three points once again slip away.
“Right now it’s a problem,” said defender Sheanon Williams, who returned to the field for the first time this season coming off a nagging leg injury. “It’s something that we have addressed and will continue to address. But it comes down to guys buckling down at the end of matches and just not giving up a goal. That starts with the defense and moves forward. We are going to figure this out; we have to figure this out to get to where we want to be at the end of the season.”
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What was figured out was that as MacMath continues to mature in his role, his ability to remain cool under intense pressure is also apparent. In his sprawling dive to deny Magee, MacMath said it was all about remembering what he observed watching game film in addition to not getting swept up in the moment that ensured the Union would not leave Toyota Park empty handed.
“We scout all the PKs in the league and I had a good feeling that he was going to go low and to the right,” MacMath said. “Thankfully, I was able to get enough on it. [On the rebound], I just threw my body [at the ball] hoping that it would hit me before him. Thankfully, it did.”
The final stat sheet showed MacMath with five saves, none more important than his final of the afternoon.
“It was a difficult match, the field conditions were rough and Chicago played well, but I think it’s a game where we all know we deserved three points,” MacMath continued. “Obviously, we are fortunate to get away with a point, but we don’t feel fortunate because again in our eyes we came up short.”
The Union will have a week to prepare and figure out how to effective close out its second Western Conference opponent of the season when Real Salt Lake visits PPL Park next Saturday, April 12 (4 p.m., purchase tickets). That game will kick start a run of three in a week span as the Union face an April 16 showdown with bitter rival New York Red Bulls (7:30 p.m., The Comcast Network) followed by a return to PPL Park to host the Houston Dynamo (4 p.m., purchase tickets).
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org