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.

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points (at the time of this posting), and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

Editor's Note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

The improvements have been obvious for the 76ers this season. Just months removed from a franchise-worst 10-72 record, the Sixers have begun to see return on their rebuild with rookie Joel Embiid leading the charge.
 
December will be a big month for the team as it looks to rise in the Eastern Conference. Attending an upcoming game won’t come attached with big ticket prices, either. With several marquee opponents headed to Wells Fargo Center over the next four weeks, including the Lakers, Celtics and Raptors, fans can find relatively inexpensive ticket prices on the resale market all month long.
 
On TicketIQ, a ticket search engine that pools tickets and data from over 90 percent of the resale market, the average resale price for 76ers tickets in December is just $58. That makes December among the cheapest months to see the Sixers this season.

 
With the Lakers in town for a December 16 game, it will be the only 76ers home game this month that commands an average resale price above $100. On TicketIQ, 76ers vs Lakers tickets own a $112 average and the most inexpensive are listed from $27 each. It will be the Lakers’ sole visit to Philadelphia this season.
 
The Celtics will be the Sixers’ second most expensive opponent this month, but their December 3 visit is currently averaging nearly half the price the Lakers are seeing when they’re in town two weeks later. As it stands now the average resale price for tickets against the Celtics is $69 with a get-in price of $13.
 
The Nets, Pelicans and Raptors are all generating similar demand for their respective stops in Philadelphia later this month. With all three teams visiting over a six-day period between December 14 and 20, no game will average over $55 on the secondary market. Tickets start from as low as $7 each to when Anthony Davis and the Pelicans come to town on the 20th.
 
For those fans with interest in attending the most inexpensive games at Wells Fargo Center this month, the struggling Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets will serve as the most affordable opponents to see in action in December. The Magic play the Sixers on Friday night, where last-minute 76ers vs. Magic tickets are averaging $43. Their next home game against the Nuggets have an average resale price of just $35.