PHILADELPHIA — This was a scenario Zac MacMath had gone over in his mind thousands of times.
He would lie down in bed and dream about this moment and what it would feel like.
On Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field, MacMath saw his dreams become reality.
There he was, protecting Philadelphia Union’s goal against arguably the world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo. As Ronaldo lined up to take a free kick, MacMath just focused intently and did what he has done thousands of times before — he made the save.
It was a fascinating subplot in what wound up being a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid before 57,305 fans at the Linc. After falling behind 2-0, the Union played a strong second half and nearly had Jack McInerney tie the game in stoppage time.
WATCH: Full match highlights
“The guys and [goalkeeper coach] Rob [Vartughian] were joking with me before the game about this,” MacMath said. “They were saying, ‘Don’t let him get one on you.’ I was able to make the save fortunately.”
Having deep Philadelphia roots made the experience that much more worthwhile for MacMath. His father, Gary, is a graduate of Frankford High School in Philadelphia, his aunt lives in nearby Valley Forge, and there are friends scattered throughout the area.
“I thought it was a great experience, and to play against one of the best players and clubs in the world was amazing,” MacMath said. “I thought everyone did a good job, and we showed a lot of character. As we get back into MLS play, we can take a lot of good things from Everton and then from this match.”
Starting goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who will participate in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena, echoed similar thoughts.
“To play a top side like Real Madrid here, it was a privilege for everyone,” Mondragon said. “It was a great experience for us, for the fans, the franchise and we gave them a very decent game. I think we’re all very happy.”
Defensive miscues led to Jose Maria Callejon scoring in the second minute and Mesut Ozil added a second goal in the 11th minute for a quick 2-0 lead.
The Union refused to back down and got within 2-1 when Michael Farfan scored in the 80th minute. McInerney and Roger Torres each had outstanding chances to even the score late in the match.
Philadelphia will get back to MLS action with an added boost of confidence after a 1-0 win over Everton FC and this hard-fought match against Real Madrid.
“The Union have a lot of very good players,” said Real Madrid superstar midfielder Kaká. “They have a bright future. They’re a very good club and they are well managed. They are going to be tough to beat in MLS.”
Union manager Peter Nowak was pleased with his club's effort.
“No one got hurt and we played good,” Nowak said.
The Union, who are tied with the Columbus Crew for first place in the Eastern Conference with two matches in hand, will return to league action on Friday when they host the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park.
After such a strong finish against Real Madrid, they have to be feeling quite good about themselves.
“Yes, I think we are confident,” said forward Danny Mwanga, who assisted on Farfan’s goal. “I was very pleased with how we came out in the second half and played very aggressive. I think with a performance like that, we can get back to training and understand where we are. I think we’re in a good position.
"It was exciting to play one of the worldwide clubs in Real Madrid and I thought it was a great experience," Mwanga added. "It will help us as we get back to MLS.”