MATCHDAY: The First True Test -- MacMath, Union Welcome Star-Studded Galaxy to PPL (7:30 p.m., CSN)

MATCHDAY: The First True Test -- MacMath, Union Welcome Star-Studded Galaxy to PPL (7:30 p.m., CSN)

In my season preview, I said this about Zac MacMath:

It’s put up or shut up time for MacMath. ... MacMath is immensely talented and amazingly athletic, but from where I sit, it’s time for the 21-year-old, former first-round pick to put the team on his back and win a few games on his own this season.

Well, that happened on Saturday.

MacMath was off the charts in the Union's 1-0 win in Chicago last weekend. None of his six official saves were better than this one in the final 30 seconds.

[nbcsports_video src=http://p.mlssoccer.com/SAu5a/video/1724404/mls_2013-05-11-155204.640hq.mp4 service=mlssoccer width=590 height=332]

No one has ever questioned MacMath's athleticism. But his decision-making is questionable at best and wildly inconsistent at worst. If he can put it together and play like he did Saturday, this team could go far.

[RELATED: Landon Donovan has high praise for Jack Mac]

For the first time this season, someone other than Jack McInerney was the star of a Union win. So with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy coming to PPL Park tonight -- likely meaning plenty of chances for MacMath to save the Union's bacon -- it's a perfect time for the casual fans to learn a little more about Mr. MacMath (a trend we'll continue occasionally throughout the season).

How He Got Here: MacMath -- a star at the University of Maryland -- was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 MLS Draft, the Union's second-ever draft. He is the only goalkeeper drafted in the first round since 2009 (Stefan Frei, Toronto), and one of just 11 goalies ever taken in the first round since the league began drafting college players in 1996. Only three goalies have ever been picked higher: Former Union player Chris Seitz (4th by Salt Lake in 2007), budding English Premier League star Brad Guzan (2nd by Chivas in 2005) and Adin Brown (3rd by Colorado in 2000).

Why Fans Love Him: The 21-year-old MacMath is incredibly athletic. He has incredible reflexes and his six-foot frame can reach all four corners of the net.

Why Fans Are Frustrated By Him: Expectations, plain and simple. The Union spent a high pick on MacMath, and gave him an experienced veteran to learn from in fan favorite Faryd Mondragon. His name was mentioned as the next in a long line of American goalkeepers -- the one position where the United States stands out in the soccer world.

He seems to doubt himself at times, come out on balls when he shouldn't, and stay on his line when he should be more aggressive. In the last home game against Seattle, he made two saves while STANDING INSIDE HIS OWN NET -- one which resulted in a goal and one that he got away with. This only served to illustrated his sometimes-shaky sense of control over his own penalty area -- something Mondragon excelled in.

That's another thing working against MacMath's perception among Union fans: Faryd Mondragon. The Colombian was a fan favorite during his one season in 2011, and has an INCREDIBLE command over his penalty area and defenders. He was constantly barking out instructions, consoling defenders after mistakes, and constantly teaching and directing his teammates. MacMath needs to remember some of the lessons he learned from Mondragon and realize this is his ship now.

You Know He'll Have a Good Night: When he makes a big save early, like he did on Saturday. MacMath then seems engaged and in control, and more aggressive coming off his line.

Union Highlight: In my opinion, Saturday's game against Chicago was MacMath's best game as a Union player. He also saved a penalty kick in a crazy 1-1 draw against DC United last year.

Where Does He Go From Here: Based on his age and athleticism, MacMath still could be a top goalkeeper in this league, and eventually parlay that into a European career, should he so choose. But he has a long way to go on the consistency and confidence front. For now, he needs to be someone that Union fans don't need to worry about on a game-by-game basis.

* * *

Today's Game:

Philadelphia Union (4-3-2, 15 points) vs. LA Galaxy (4-3-2, 14 points)

7:30 p.m. -- PPL Park -- TV: Comcast SportsNet

Prediction Sure To Be Way Off:

The Union seem to be finding their way, and Jack McInerney is hotter than any forward in the world not named Lewandowski. And the Galaxy are still finding their way with Landon Donovan back from his self-imposed vacation (another post for another day). But LA is still LA. The Union will get one early and sneak in another. But they'll struggle to hold the lead, before giving it up and settling for a draw.

Union 2, Galaxy 2.

Sixers reach respectable spot in ESPN's latest NBA power rankings

Sixers reach respectable spot in ESPN's latest NBA power rankings

Everything seemed status-quo in ESPN’s Marc Stein’s most updated NBA power rankings. As expected the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers occupied the top spots. But when you venture down to number 15, you may gasp. 
  
Yes, the Sixers (15-27) are gracing the middle of the power rankings at number 15. Stein is starting to "trust the process" after the team’s recent 8-2 stint. It isn’t just Joel Embid making headlines with his record-breaking numbers and internet love life, but the team is now getting its due.  
  
“Philly is doing plenty of interesting things,” Stein wrote. “Ersan Ilyasova and Robert Covington have combined to drain 51 threes over the past 10 games. The Sixers, as a team, have moved into the league's top 10 in defensive efficiency.”

Covington and Ilyasova are part of a new-look starting five along with Embiid, and guards T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas. McConnell and Stauskas had spent the majority of the season coming off the bench, but Stauskas has started the last 12 and McConnell 10 of the last 11 (McConnell was sidelined for one game with a wrist injury). The Sixers are 7-3 with that starting guard duo.
 
Despite the most recent loss to the Hawks, the Sixers have won four of their last eight victories by one possession. Giving them plenty of momentum to jump up ten spots from the last power ranking. 
 
The Sixers will be at home to play the Clippers this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. They will be without Joel Embid who continues to rest his injured left knee. 
 

Jim Gaffigan warned Pope Francis not to mention Santa Claus in Philly

Jim Gaffigan warned Pope Francis not to mention Santa Claus in Philly

Comedian Jim Gaffigan opened up for Pope Francis when he visited Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families back in 2015.

That would seem like an odd opener for the Supreme Pontiff. And Gaffigan admits as much.

Gaffigan was a guest of Stephen Colbert's on Friday on his Late Show and talked about the surreal experience of warming up the crowd in Philly.

"I'm not a good Catholic," Gaffigan says. "If there was a test for Catholics, I would fail. But most Catholics would fail which is probably why there's not a test."

The comedian also got in a few low level digs at our town.

"'Philadelphia: the City of Brotherly Love,' which if you've been to Philly you know they mean that sarcastically," he says. "I mean, I love Philly but they mean that the same way they say 'Syria: the place for peace.'"

Meh.

"I was nervous at the sound check so I had to come up with some Philadelphia jokes. What do I know about Philadelphia? I know about the Liberty Bell, I know the cheesesteak, and I had just watched this ESPN 30-for-30 about Eagles fans throwing snowballs at Santa. Not on the brand of Brotherly Love. So when I was finally introduced there was still nobody there, I figured I'd just do my set. So I said, 'It's good to be here in Philadelphia,' and I heard a roar from crowd on the highway, so I thought I'd play to the crowd in the highway. 'Philly loves the Pope!' and I got another roar. 'Not that I was worried but you guys weren't that nice to Santa Claus.' Nothing. Silence. And then I heard something that sounded like booing... because it was booing. It wasn't everybody, maybe ten percent, so like 100,000 people booing my Santa joke before they saw their religious leader who was going to talk about mercy."

"Eventually I got a chance to meet the Pope and I was in this room and everybody was saying something to the Pope and I didn't know what to say. So when it finally came my turn, I said, 'Don't bring up the Santa incident.' The Pope didn't say anything but he gave me a look like, 'Dude, I would never bring that up.'"

The ESPN film that Gaffigan mentioned was actually a spoof. It was just kind of okay. You can watch it here.

The Pope part starts around the 5:10 mark in the below video. You can also catch Gaffigan's new standup special titled "Cinco" on Netflix.