With the Philadelphia Union on an eight-game winless streak, everyone connected with the team was looking to bust out on Saturday with a win against first-place Columbus.
There were plenty of storylines going into the game, besides the winless streak.
Could rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath get his first MLS win?
Could Philadelphia get that all-important first goal? They hadn’t scored first in their last five games.
Could Sebastien Le Toux continue his late-season goal scoring run?
With a YES answer to all of the above, the Union defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 in front of a standing room only crowd (18,906) at PPL Park.
There was another storyline, though, that none of us were thinking about prior to Saturday’s game. How about the MLS debut of 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer in the starting lineup? Union manager Peter Nowak has always spoken highly of the team's first Home Grown Player and has indicated in the past that at some point he would play the talented young midfielder. No one expected that start to come last Saturday against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Young Zach did well in his 61 minutes of work. If he was nervous out there on the field, he sure didn’t let us know. He seemed composed on the ball and confident while playing on a field with some players more than double his age. No doubt that playing in Reserve League games, plus international friendlies, has helped Pfeffer make good progress.
We were able to see a little bit of the future on Saturday, even earlier than we thought we might.
Other bright spots on the night included the play of 20-year-old Roger Torres, whose brilliant pass led to the game's only goal, and Le Toux, who scored his sixth goal in the last six games. This is a great time for him to heat up.
As for the young goalkeeper, MacMath is looking confident, as he is now coming off of back-to-back shutouts. Thanks to some stellar defense, he hasn’t been severely tested. That could change on Friday when the Union travel to face Sporting Kansas City in a game that can be seen on FOX Soccer. Soccer Night in America begins on Friday at 8 p.m. ET with the pre-game show, followed by the game.
I’ll have more on the matchup later this week.