Talking Philly Union, young goalkeepers and tricky spots

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There’s so much irony in the following quote, Alanis Morissette may just need to go back and add it into her noted irony song from a few years back.

This is from young Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath following last night’s loss at home to Chicago:

I don’t think anybody thinks we are out of the playoff picture. All of us are looking forward to next weekend and getting three points back.”

That playoff thing: that is probably a bridge too far. As best I can figure the club would need to win 7 of its final 13 at very minimum, with a few ties in there too, even for a chance.

Here’s the irony: If little shards of a playoff chance remain lying around on the PPL grounds, they might need to rustle up an experience goalkeeper and make a change in net. Because MacMath, 20, keeps making errors that cost points.

(MORE: Highlights of Philly’s loss Sunday to Chicago)

Two of the Chicago Fire strikes Sunday were squarely on him. MacMath came for one cross and didn’t get there, leaving the goal exposed. And he somehow managed to jump out of the way on Chris Rolfe’s second goal. (MacMath anticipated Rolfe going to the far post; it didn’t work out so well for him.)

So, what does Hackworth do? Because it gets tricky.

As Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak, one of his first aims was to reconstruct some of the confidence in young players that had been gradually siphoned away under Nowak, a noted old-school hard-ass.

In a conversation I had a week ago with Hackworth (You can listen to it here, it’s the second interview on the show), we talked about rebuilding the self-belief in impressionable players like Jack MacInerney and MacMath, about empowering them by relieving the fear of making mistakes. Said Hackworth:

Any time a young player feels the coaching staff has faith in them, it’s important. When you have young guys like that, they are going to make mistakes, and they don’t have to be perfect. As long as they don’t have to worry about every little thing they do, I think that helps them. It’s a little bit of a weight lifted off their shoulders.”

Which is all great. I truly appreciate that about Hackworth, and I believe he’s squarely on the right track. So long, that is, as he’s willing to concede the 2012 playoff fight, especially as it relates to his young goalkeeper. Here’s what he had to say about MacMath:

Zac is a young, but he’s been a starter for us all year now. Is he going to make mistakes because he’s still only 20 years old? Sure, and I think we just need to understand that, both the players in our locker room and the staff. But Zac is really talented, and he is mature beyond his years. … The mistakes that he will make, and has made, he’s such a student of the game that he’ll learn from those. And to go back to young players, whether you are a goalkeeper or a field player. that’s all you can ask of young players.”