The Philadelphia Union came into Saturday’s game at Rio Tinto Stadium a little bit shorthanded.
Then they got even more shorthanded when starting goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón – the club’s captain and only 2011 All-Star – hurt his finger and came out at halftime in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.
Backup Zac MacMath, making his MLS debut, didn’t allow a goal in the second half, but Mondragón’s injury could be a serious detriment in Philly’s playoff chase, which took a hit with the defeat.
A couple of reports indicated Mondragón broke his finger, but Union manager Peter Nowak did not offer any specifics about the injury after the game.
“We’ll see,” Nowak said. “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. We’ll go back home and see what his status will be.”
Before Mondragón came out, the Union suffered through some defensive struggles, due in large part to the absences of defensive midfielder Brian Carroll (right foot contusion) and central back Carlos Valdés (suspension).
Back on their heels for much of the first half, Philly allowed two RSL goals through the first 26 minutes, both of which came from poor marking off corner kicks. And the damage could have even been worse if not for a brilliant save from Mondragón in the 25th minute on RSL’s Fabián Espíndola and some critical clearances from Danny Califf and Stefani Miglioranzi later in the game.
The Union, which posted four shutouts through their first six games, have now surrendered two goals in each of their past three games and are winless in their last six contests.
Snapping that skid will be even more difficult if Mondragón misses any more time, but the Union feel they are fortunate to have a very capable backup in MacMath, a highly-touted rookie who made three saves in the second half Saturday.
“I think Zac MacMath came in and he was calm and very secure,” Nowak said. “I was pleased with the game from him. We’ll see what the status is for Faryd, who is a very important piece to this team.”
If Mondragón is sidelined, the Union will also miss the captain’s vocal leadership, which has been a vital component to the club’s success this season.
The Union, however, also say they are stocked with capable replacements in that department as well.
“Faryd is our captain,” said Sébastien Le Toux, who on Saturday scored his first goal from the run of play this season. “But Danny Califf, myself, Miglioranzi – we are also leaders of this team.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.