Goalkeeping style behind Union defenders' goal-line saves

Back four meshing perfectly with MacMath

CHESTER, Pa. – Shortly after taking a lick from teammate Zac MacMath during the Philadelphia Union’s 3-0 win over Toronto FC on Sunday, defender Sheanon Williams decided to forgive him.

He did so by making one of the best defensive plays of the season, heading a rebound blast from Danny Koevermans off the goal line just after MacMath stopped Ryan Johnson from point-blank range.

VOTE: Save of the Week

“Zac made a great save so I was just trying to help him out, even though he punched me in the head earlier,” Williams said with a smile. “I’ve always got Zac’s back and he would have done the same for me. I’m happy to have kept the zero. That’s what we wanted to do.”

The Union defenders have actually made a habit of doing their best goalkeeper impressions of late. Against the Galaxy on Wednesday, left back Gabriel Farfan and center back Carlos Valdés both blocked Robbie Keane shots off the goal line to help the Union earn a crucial 2-1 victory.

WATCH: MacMath, Williams deny Toronto a goal

“I think that’s awesome,” MacMath said. “It shows just how committed we are to not giving up goals. I’ve known Sheanon a long time and he’s always been a player that will come behind me when I’m out of my goal and save me off the line.”

While it might seem rare to see so many defensive plays of this nature in the span of just a few days, MacMath believes part of that is due to his goalkeeping style.

“I like to come out and try to shut down guys and give them less of an angle,” the Union netminder said. “And I’m giving enough time for guys to get back there and they’re doing a great job of keeping the ball out.”

Whatever the strategy, it’s certainly seemed to work well as MacMath has meshed perfectly with defenders Williams, Farfan, Valdés and Amobi Okugo to help the Union put together a two-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal showdown with Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, live stream TBA).

Said MacMath, “The back four has been awesome.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.