This week, as the Philadelphia Union prepare for Wednesday night's showdown with the rival New York Red Bulls at PPL Park (7 p.m. -- ESPN2), the Twitter-verse has had some fun with Zapruder-like photograph analysis of a shot taken at PPL Park during last Saturday's draw with Colorado.
The photo appears to show Algerian national team goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi sitting in the owner's suite with Union boss Nick Sakiewicz. If you watched Algeria play in the World Cup, M'Bolhi was an absolute star. You may also know him as the goalkeeper who allowed Landon Donovan's famous goal in the 2010 World Cup.
Now, this could just be another sign that MLS is now a full-fledged part of the silly season that is the worldwide summer transfer window. But, it also raises a big question, especially if the interest turns out to be true:
Don't the Union already have enough goalkeepers?
Quite simply, the answer is yes.
But that doesn't mean they should keep them all.
The Union should trade Zac MacMath.
Yeah, I said it. And many, many Union fans won't like to hear it. But right now, it absolutely makes sense. It makes a TON of sense if the team really is interested in someone like M'Bolhi, but it still works even if not.
First thing's first: I love Zac MacMath. I was hard on him a bit last year, but he has really grown into himself well and will be one of the top goalkeepers in MLS for as long as he stays in the league. He's an incredible shot-stopper who is learning how to organize a defense and make the right decisions (his biggest weakness last season).
But that is exactly the point. The Union used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on goalkeeper Andre Blake, who has only played in a few U.S. Open Cup matches. They are not really going anywhere this season other than (maybe) a U.S. Open Cup final. They have more than a few holes to fill all around the field.
So why not look at the one position where you have depth and youth and use it to acquire one or two of your bigger needs.
MacMath's trade value will never be higher (in reality, they probably should've pulled the trigger two months ago after his string of penalty kick saves), and his future here is somewhat uncertain anyway, as a young American player who likely has visions of Europe dancing in his head.
You can't tell me that every other MLS team is confident in its goalkeeper. Heck, you might be able to even talk to Orlando City, which joins the league next season and is starting to stockpile players. Although I'm not sure what you could get in return other than draft picks or money - unless they want to trade Kaka (that's a joke).
Would Andre Blake give you the same performance as MacMath this year? Of course not. Would he be as good next year? Probably not.
But whether you're replacing MacMath with M'Bolhi and letting Blake learn from a veteran of multiple World Cups, or thrusting Blake into the spotlight, the dropoff is not going to cost you an MLS title, or even a playoff spot. You weren't going to get either of those things this year anyway.
But, if MacMath can land you a starting center back, or a promising striker, or even some prime draft picks and allocation money (it better be a lot if you're not getting a live body in return), then you've made your team better in the long run. You're taking a small step back at one position, but taking a bigger step forward as a whole.
Look around the Union lineup. There are not many tradeable assets. Maybe Sheanon Williams if you found the right team. But you're not trading a young (cheap) future star like Raymon Gaddis, you're not trading Maurice Edu, and guys like Sebastien Le Toux, Fabinho, and Conor Casey are not worth anything on the trade market, despite being solid players for the Union of late.
The front office game is about taking risks at the right time and cashing in when it makes the most sense for you.
Right now, Zac MacMath is a name that would perk up the ears of most teams around the league. And while a core group of fans would be quite upset, moving MacMath for the right price makes a lot of sense, whether you're hosting World Cup keepers in the owner's box or not.