CHESTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Zac MacMath #18 of the Philadelphia Union shouts at his team during their MLS soccer game against the Columbus Crew, September 17, 2011 at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
7 games, three wins, four draws and eight goals allowed. These were rookie Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath's numbers after filling in for an injured Faryd Mondragon late in the 2011 season.
That resume is pretty impressive for a twenty year old rookie backup goalkeeper whose only playing time before Faryd Mondragon's injury was a second half start in a friendly against EPL squad, Everton.
While it may be too early to say that MacMath is great or call him the future of football in the United States, this kid has more than proven that he is ready to be a starting goalkeeper in this league. With Faryd Mondragon seemingly on his way back to his native Colombia, MacMath's day could come as soon as March 12th when the Union open up the season in Portland.
MacMath isn't just any other young up and comer. A former University of Maryland standout, MacMath was the starter for the Terps in all three seasons he played, winning a handful of individual college awards. It is obvious the Union know he has talent; he was the teams first round draft pick in 2011, going fifth overall.
This is also a Generation Adidas player who has already racked up a combined 29 USMNT appearances for the U-17 and U-20 squads.
MacMath also has the smarts to be a top keeper in MLS. You don't become good by sitting on the bench and watching. You shadow the best to become the best. You ask them questions and you train with them every day.
Having already traveled to Everton twice (once while at Maryland) to train under USMNT star goalkeeper Tim Howard, MacMath has a strong edge over other young keepers in the league right now. Potentially going into the 2012 season as the Union's starting keeper, it doesn't hurt that he has been the backup to a guy in Faryd Mondragon who has over twenty years of experience in net.
With Mondragon potentially on his way out, the team will be losing a leader. Mondragon was captain for a reason, he was remarkably good at leading his team and pumping them up in any situation. While MacMath doesn't have the same developed leadership skills Mondragon has, this also comes as an advantage to him.
It allows him to focus strictly on keeping balls out of the net while letting guys like Danny Califf and Sebastian Le Toux (if he is around) lead the team on the field. This isn't to say that he can't lead at all; he's shown that he can bark out orders on the field and organize the team when the situation calls for it.
MacMath has already proven that he can stop shots with the best of them, the question will be if he can maintain his strong game play for the length of an entire season.
Giving a player such high praise after only seven starts may seem a little much, but Zac MacMath has been given all the tools he needs to succeed as a starter. All he has to do is hold on to the confidence that he had during the seven game stint he played last season.
Given the training he has received, there is no reason why MacMath shouldn't shine in 2012, especially having a team like the Union behind him who will back him up no matter the circumstance.