MacMath Gets First Test As Union and New England Both Search For a Win

MacMath Gets First Test As Union and New England Both Search For a Win

You want storylines? I’ll give you storylines. How about two teams, each winless over their last six games, facing each other? Check. A rookie keeper, drafted #5 overall, thrust into the starting lineup for the first time due to an injury to the team captain and lone MLS All-Star? Check. A rescheduled game being played mid-week thanks to a hurricane? Check.

All of these stories are in play as the Union host New England tonight at PPL Park (8PM/The Comcast Network). Oh, and as if all of those storylines aren’t enough it’s the first ever Dollar Dog Night at PPL. Adding processed meat in tube-form into the equation can only add to the intrigue.

Speaking of intrigue, how will rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath fare stepping in for the injured Faryd Mondragon? Stepping in for Mondragon, who is out 2-4 weeks with a broken right ring finger, is a near impossible task. The Colombian keeper has made a seamless transition to MLS. His skill and experience enabled him to step right into a starting role, assume the captain’s armband, and become a team leader.

MacMath? Well, many are surprised that he’s even on the Union roster. Leading up to the MLS Super Draft many Union fans hoped the team would select an offensive-minded player to help jumpstart the struggling attack. Instead , despite rumors having surfaced that the team was set to sign Mondragon, the Union opted to select All-American out of the University of Maryland.

There’s no questioning MacMath’s pedigree. He was an All-American and All-ACC player for a reason. At just 20 years old he’s got plenty of time to fill out his 6’2” frame. However, it’s asking quite a bit for a rookie goalkeeper to step in and help right the ship of a side struggling to stay in playoff contention.

If he has any hope of succeeding he’ll need his back line to step up and return to early season form. As the MLS game notes point out, after allowing a season-high two goals just five times in the opening 22 games of the season, they have now allowed two goals in each of the last three.

You’d think New England would be an ideal opponent for MacMath to face in his first ever MLS start. They are tied with Toronto for the fewest goals scored (26) in MLS. However, Rev’s head coach Steve Nicol will likely pair a couple of 6’2” forwards at the top of his formation. Designated Player Milton Caraglio and Rajko Lekic provide nice target options for Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph.

The combination of the Argentinean Caraglio and the Danish Lekic will pose challenges for the center of the Union back four. Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes (back from a yellow card suspension) will need to be decisive in front of MacMath. They cannot afford any miscues or miscommunication with a rookie keeper behind them.

Offensively, the Union continue to struggle. It certainly was nice to see Sebastien Le Toux finally score from the run of play – as he did on Saturday in Salt Lake. Peter Nowak has to hope that the volley Le Toux picked out of the air and sent into the back of the net gives his most complete player a confidence boost.

Freddy Adu, who has come off the bench the last two matches, is getting closer to being able go the full ninety minutes. Earlier in the week he alluded to the fact that he continues to work on his fitness and conditioning. It’s easy to forget that Adu, aside from a few appearances in the Gold Cup, had not been training regularly since the end of his club season in Turkey. Lord knows the Union are desperate for a player like Adu to inject some creativity into the offense.

Danny Mwanga is another player who needs to get things going. He never seems to find himself in dangerous goal scoring positions. Perhaps frustrated with a lack of service he’s constantly checking back to the midfield to pick up the ball with little options in front of him.

To be honest, Veljko Paunovic has seemed more willing than Mwanga to pay the price to get into those danger areas.

A number of you have complained about Nowak’s insistence on playing two holding midfielders – feeling that he’s sacrificing too much offensively. Well, I think you’re out of luck tonight if you hope to see him change that. With MacMath in net I’d imagine Nowak wants to provide as much cover as possible for his rookie keeper.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: MacMath, Williams, Califf, Valdes, G. Farfan, Mapp, Carroll (there are conflicting reports as to his health/availability, but if he’s healthy I’d start him), Okugo, Adu, Le Toux, Paunovic.

Final Score Prediction: The winless streak for both teams moves to seven as this one ends 1-1.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: Califf, who may be too aggressive in seeking to protect his young keeper.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

USA Today Images

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Snap counts: Connor Barwin's snaps decrease; filling in for Bennie Logan


Snap counts: Connor Barwin's snaps decrease; filling in for Bennie Logan

During the week, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he thought defensive end Connor Barwin could benefit from fewer snaps during games. 

That's exactly what happened on Sunday. 

Barwin, who came into the game with the most snaps by an Eagles defensive end, played 49 (64 percent) against the Vikings. He came into the game playing 79 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. On Sunday, he had a huge strip sack of Sam Bradford. 

Taking away some of Barwin's snaps on Sunday was even more impressive considering Vinny Curry played quite a few snaps inside as a defensive tackle with the absence of Bennie Logan (groin). 

Curry played 41 snaps (54 percent) against the Vikings after playing just 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps before this weekend. 

Beau Allen, who started in place of Logan, played 51 snaps (67 percent), while rookie Destiny Vaeao chipped in a career-high 30. Vaeao has had 58 snaps in the last two weeks. 

Ron Brooks played just seven snaps before going down with a serious leg injury. That meant Jalen Mills played 27 snaps and safety Jaylen Watkins played 46 snaps. 

Malcolm Jenkins continued his impressive streak. He played all 76 snaps on Sunday and the only defensive snap he's missed was that weird fake punt in the opener against Cleveland. 

On offense, Josh Huff saw his role increase some on Sunday and he made the most of it. Huff, who had just nine snaps last week, got 20 against the Vikings and caught four balls for 39 yards. Perhaps Huff's production is why Dorial Green-Beckham's snaps dropped to 28 (48 percent). 

Matt Tobin got some extended playing time (20 snaps) at left tackle thanks to Jason Peters' bicep injury. Peters said that had the game been close, he would have been fine to go back in. 

Zach Ertz got 48 snaps (83 percent) but walked away with one catch for 14 yards. He's been on the field, but can't seem to become a part of the passing offense. 

Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles each got 26 snaps on Sunday. Wendell Smallwood got five and Kenjon Barner 3. On the season, Smallwood has 28 carries on 42 snaps. 

Here's a full look at snap counts from Sunday: 

Allen Barbre, 58 snaps, 100 percent
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 58, 100
Jason Kelce, 58, 100
Carson Wentz, 58, 100
Brandon Brooks, 53, 91
Zach Ertz, 48, 83
Jordan Matthews, 45, 78
Jason Peters, 43, 74
Nelson Agholor 43, 74
Brent Celek, 28, 48
Dorial Green-Beckham, 28, 48
Darren Sproles, 26, 45
Ryan Mathews, 26, 45
Josh Huff, 20, 34
Matt Tobin, 20, 34
Trey Burton, 13, 22
Wendell Smallwood, 5, 9
Stefen Wisniewski, 5, 9
Kenjon Barner, 3, 5

Malcolm Jenkins, 76 snaps, 100 percent
Nigel Bradham, 76, 100
Jordan Hicks, 76, 100
Nolan Carroll, 75, 99
Rodney McLeod, 75, 99
Brandon Graham, 57, 75
Fletcher Cox, 54, 71
Beau Allen, 51, 67
Connor Barwin, 49, 64
Jaylen Watkins, 46, 61
Leodis McKelvin, 44, 58
Vinny Curry, 41, 54
Destiny Vaeao, 30, 39
Jalen Mills, 27, 36
Mychal Kendricks, 24, 32
Marcus Smith, 18, 24
Ron Brooks, 7, 9
Steven Means, 5, 7
Stephen Tulloch, 5, 7