MacMath shines, but it's been a complete effort from Union collective paying dividends
Zac MacMath was credited with his sixth clean sheet of the season following a scoreless draw against the Portland Timbers Saturday night at PPL Park.
In addition, MacMath became the youngest player before the age of 22 to earn 17 shutouts, surpassing D.C. United's Bill Hamid (16) and Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando (seven).
All noble things, but MacMath will be the first to ensure that the players in front of him deserve just as much credit for his hot streak.
The Philadelphia Union displayed yet another gritty defensive effort against one of the more potent offensive clubs in the league.
In the process, the Union (8-6-7, 31 points) extended their home unbeaten streak to five.
Much of that success can be attributed to the defense.
“I definitely think from the back four that we worked it,” said defender Ray Gaddis. “We knew where to be and we had each other’s back. We were very cohesive [against Portland]. I thought some of their better players couldn’t do what they wanted. I thought that was very good from our defense.”
The improvement has been clearly evident from day one.
“I feel like when you play with someone for so long, you get better,” Gaddis said. “It wasn’t that way off the bat. But over the course of the season, it has gotten better and better and we came together against one of the better offenses in the league.”
Midfielder and captain Brian Carroll has noticed this upward defensive trend building every day in training. It has carried over into the matches.
“Everyone fought hard the entire game from front to back,” Carroll said following the draw with the Timbers. “It was one of those hard-fought ties where it wasn’t too many things from either team. Each team had a few chances and Zac was huge. Guys are just comfortable with each other and for the most part know where they’re going to be game in and game out through the entire match. I think we’re getting better and showing improvement all the time.”
There have been some tough moments throughout the season, but that will occur within any club in any league.
The Union have showed remarkable resilience and character, especially on the backline. Playing through a 53-minute lightning delay, the club hardly seemed fazed.
“Obviously, there are some things to work on and we’re working every day to get better as a group,” said defender Sheanon Williams. "I think it shows we’re working hard together and we’re getting better. [In Portland], that’s one of the highest scoring teams in the league. To hold them in check and to hold them to zero, I think gives us a chance to win. I thought we had some decent chances. I thought Zac did a great job in goal and made some big saves.
“If we keep playing like that, we can continue to get results. Every 90 minutes under our belt gives us more confidence, more understanding with each other. We definitely had some rough times early. Were starting to understand each other better and it has definitely helped us. I think we’re in a very good place defensively and getting clean sheets always helps.”
Even the forwards have been major contributors.
“I think we take a lot of pride in all phases of the game,” said forward Jack McInerney. “It’s not just scoring. We all want to keep the other club shut down.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org