Zac MacMath

Captain Clint fires Seattle Sounders to US Open Cup crown in 3-1 extra time win over Philadelphia

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Clint Dempsey – who else – provided the game-winner with 18 minutes to go in extra time as Seattle Sounders won an exciting back-and-forth affair at PPL Park by a 3-1 score over a creative yet ultimately wasteful Philadelphia Union.

It’s a fitting ending to the affair as Dempsey raised his first-ever club trophy and Seattle’s fourth US Open Cup in the last six years.  USMNT teammate Maurice Edu put Philadelphia up midway through the first half in front of the home fans, but Seattle took their chances better from there.

Chad Barrett leveled just after halftime, and despite plenty of action, it took until the beginning of added time before we saw another score, as Dempsey grabbed the lead. Obafemi Martins scored late in extra time to put the game away for Seattle.

Set pieces resonated on both goals in regulation. Philly captain Edu put the Union one-up halfway through the first 45 as he headed a free kick powerfully into the back of the net.

The Sounders struggled to maintain consistent pressure, and despite an early chance from Clint Dempsey in the opening 10 minutes that skied over the bar, they found consistent chances few and far between.

Things burst to life for both sides after the restart, with Seattle taking advantage just two minutes since halftime.  Chad Barrett picked up the equalizer as a corner kick deflected high into the air, and as players waited for it to come down, Barrett picked up the ping-ponging ball and nodded it home from point blank range.

source: Getty Images
Philadelphia captain Maurice Edu put the home side up early, but they failed to convert multiple chances the rest of the way in the loss.

Following Barrett’s equalizer, the game exploded open, but neither team could convert numerous chances into a goal as the second half waned on.

Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath made a brilliant save to keep the score at 1-1 with 20 minutes to go, as Brad Evans blasted on net from a tight angle, and just moments later on the other end DeAndre Yedlin had to sprint back a long way to make a last-ditch tackle on Cristian Maidana on the break.

Both teams were searching for a goal with bright attacking prowess, and Dempsey came agonizingly close but he dragged just wide of an open net after barely reaching a cross by Marco Pappa. The chance did, however, signal Seattle regaining the momentum just as they had out of the break.

Vincent Nogueira nearly gave Philadelphia an emphatic win in stoppage time, but he ripped his shot off the post, and it nearly went in for an own goal after the rebound deflected back off a pair of Sounders defenders.  Both Evans and Zach Scott limped their way through stoppage time with Seattle owning just one substitution left. Essentially 11 on 9, the visitors hung on for dear life as stoppage time ticked by.

We went to extra time, and the fireworks continued. Pappa found substitute Obafemi Martins just a minute in, but MacMath expertly denied the MVP candidate.  Seattle then used its last substitute on a limping Evans.

As both teams poked and prodded with dangerous attacks, Seattle finally hit on the counter. Martins combined with Dempsey, and as Martins slotted his teammate through, the USMNT captain provided the dagger to PPL Park’s heart.

Pappa nearly put the game away but he thundered the crossbar as the first half of extra time came to a close.  Philadelphia didn’t go down without a fight, but Martins closed up shop on the counter as he burst past Ray Gaddis and slotted easily past MacMath.

Seattle defeated four Major League Soccer teams on their way to victory, downing the likes of San Jose, Portland, and Chicago along with Philadelphia.

Chicago trades Austin Berry to Philadelphia

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Oddly, Austin Berry was apparently odd man out in Chicago, which has recently reinforced its roster with two experienced center backs, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.

Chicago traded Berry today to Philadelphia, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Berry, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, is probably just as talented and every bit as dependable as the newest central defensive arrivals into Toyota Park.

Yes, both are more experienced, but that’s the one advantage they offer over Berry. Ianni, in fact, has been a part-time starter during most of his eight years at Houston and Seattle. Compare that to Berry, who got into the Fire lineup early last year and hasn’t missed a match since.

The Union sent an undisclosed amount of allocation money to Chicago, but John Hackworth’s club gets a lot in return. In fact, it’s a lot easier today to see Philadelphia as a playoff team.

There was already a lot to like about Philadelphia, where so much young talent (Zac MacMath, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams and Jack McInerney for starters) is aligned with quite a few trusty vets (Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll and the recently signed Maurice Edu for starters).

But the hole was at center back, where Okugo needed a quality partner. Now, you look up and down the lineup around PPL Park and find yourself nodding affirmatively. (There’s a good look at this post on the Union’s potential opening day lineup.)

There is one caveat here: Berry was better as a rookie, and it’s not so hard to sort that one out. He benefitted greatly from playing alongside Arne Friedrich, a talented and highly professional former German international. When injuries forced Friedrich into retirement last year, Berry wasn’t quite the same.

That doesn’t mean he can’t play without a seasoned vet leading the way alongside, it’s just something to watch and consider.

Exclusive: Interview with MLS SuperDraft No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake

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Anyone who has followed Andre Blake knows the freakishly-athletic Jamaican goalkeeper is not nervous on the big stage. With back-to-back NCAA tournament wins going to penalty kicks and a shutout streak spanning almost 1000 minutes at UConn back when he was a freshman, the 6-foot-4 keeper has been calm under duress.

But when the Philadelphia Union traded up to the No. 1 overall spot in the MLS SuperDraft in order to select Blake, the young man was caught in a unique moment. Here he was in front of his new supporters as they chanted to him that he was now “one of us.”

“Just being there, in Philadelphia, being drafted by Philadelphia Union at No. 1 is a great feeling,” Blake told PST on Friday afternoon. “The fans reaction after it, I felt at home with it.

“The experience was a great experience, one you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”

RELATED: Surprise of the 2014 MLS Draft: Philadelphia took a goalkeeper. Hmmm… (by Steve Davis)

Having traded up to select him first, it’s no surprise Philadelphia manager John Hackworth calls Blake  “the best guy in the whole draft.” The Union boss loved his draft and the keeper was key to that adoration.

Yet Hackworth said Blake won’t start and labeled the pick as the most significant competition for Zac MacMath, whose just 22, though you’d have to at least allow that it could be a show of lip service to the vet considering Hackworth’s description of Blake is that the rookie “can do stuff now that nobody in our league can do.”

source: AP“I knew they were interested because I know the coach has been following me while I was at school,” Blake said. “I had a talk with him two or three days before the draft, so I knew they were interested. I just didn’t know what to expect.”

Blake established himself well over three years at UConn that saw the Huskies advance past the NCAA quarterfinals in each year. As a freshman, Blake started all 25 games, going 19-3-3 with an absurd 15 clean sheets. As a sophomore, he repeated as BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year, with 12 clean sheets.

Though those gaudy numbers weren’t quite replicated this season — he only had 10 shutouts — Blake proved invaluable when UConn eliminated UMBC and No. 1 UCLA from the NCAA tournament in penalty kicks.

How was that experience?

“That was just brilliant,” Blake said. “People say it’s a lot of pressure for the keeper but I took that and flipped it around. I put all the pressure on the kicker, knowing that the kicker’s expected to score. It worked.”

RELATED: MLS, Philadelphia having difference of opinion on Maurice Edu (by Steve Davis)

A member of the U-17 and U-20 Jamaican national teams, he says he has a good relationship with MLS Reggae Boyz like Darren Mattocks and Omar Daley.

Blake dreams of manning the nets for the full senior side in addition to becoming the top goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. And down the line, he sure would love to take shots on club soccer’s biggest stages.

“My ultimate goals are to one day play in the Barclays Premier League,” Blake said. “But I want to take it one step at a time and show MLS and Generation adidas that I’m very appreciative of them for choosing for me such a thing like this. I want to go into the league, be very dedicated to my team and take it from there.”

Blake laughed when asked to pinpoint the most interesting thing about him. He’s a cool customer who likes his Bob Marley and keeping a calm perspective.

“The most interesting thing about me is I’m a totally different person off the field than on it,” Blake said. “I’m a laid back guy who wants to play a little bit of music and anybody can feel free to come up to me and have a conversation.”

Surprise of the 2014 MLS Draft: Philadelphia took a goalkeeper. Hmmm …

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Everyone paying attention to the 2014 MLS Draft understood that some team would land a real plum in UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The guy looks ready to play in MLS today, and not just for the physical ability. Blake looks wise beyond his years in communicating with defenders, providing the valuable information in real time that can calm and improve a back line. In his overall command of the penalty area, he looks quite assured, too. Those are areas most young goalkeepers grow into; he’s already there.

So, Blake was clearly going early in the draft.

But to Philadelphia? That one fell as the big surprise of a draft that was fairly thin in talent compared to past pickings, but a day still blessed with lots of movement and trades, etc. (Two more rounds are set for tomorrow, but third and fourth rounds are productive only for depth, if even that.)

Truly, this turned into a bad, bad day for Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

MacMath, although just 22, looked set to be a third-year starter this year. That position as a starter turned oh-so-tenuous when MLS commissioner Don Garber stepped to the microphone to announce Blake as Philadelphia’s selection with the top overall pick.

(MORE: MLS Draft recap, who went where)

Philadelphia officials even traded up a spot, handing some allocation cash to D.C. United to ensure they select Blake, who has already had international appearances for Jamaica. MacMath must have fallen over sideways at that news.

While nobody really saw this coming – most projections had Blake going to Vancouver, which had the No. 3 pick and was desperate for a goalkeeper, making that one look like a no-brainer all the way around – perhaps in retrospect it shouldn’t be that much a surprise.

MacMath was put in goal too early at PPL Park, made the Union starter at age 19. His high-profile blunders – He was 19, after all, what did they expect? – cost the Union a game here and there. MacMath has stabilized his game to the point that he’s no longer making the regular, big blunders.

But he still doesn’t deal consistently well with crosses, and he hasn’t been the best about communicating with the back line – the very thing that Blake seems to do so well, even though he’s yet to play an MLS match.

Blake going to Philly was among the big surprises of the day – but don’t be surprised to see Blake taking over as the No. 1 at PPL Park very soon into the 2014 season.

(MORE: D.C. United has the best day)

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 18 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – In league games, Ben Olsen’s team has not scored in the run of play since Kyle Porter knocked one in back on May 19. That’s six games without a goal that didn’t come from the penalty spot. Oh, my.

18. Chivas USA – Carlos Bocanegra’s first game could be July 12 at Philadelphia. (The former U.S. captain was signed Monday.) And Erick “Cubo” Torres may be en route, too. Are there signs of life here?

17. Toronto FC – The only good news from 1-0 loss at home to Real Salt Lake: Danny Koevermans got back into the starting lineup for the first time in almost 12 months.

16. San Jose Earthquakes – Are the Goonies back? A spirited three-goal rally in Saturday’s win over the Galaxy (3-2) before a packed Stanford Stadium has the look of one to build on.

15. Columbus – After an initial win, the Crew is now 0-2 since glue-man midfielder Eddie Gaven and center back Glauber fell to season-ending injuries.

14. Chicago Fire – Frank Klopas’ team had the weekend off and now prepare to face San Jose. Anyone remember the beauty Chris Rolfe scored against the Earthquakes last year?

13. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena was understandably unhappy after his team blew a 2-0 lead. “I’m absolutely embarrassed at that performance,” he said. “It’s disgraceful”

12. Colorado Rapids – A comeback 4-3 win at Montreal is surely one of the best “Ws” in two years under manager Oscar Pareja. Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown keep building their Rookie of the Year cases.

11. Houston Dynamo – Another match, another day of bankrupt offense in the latest blanking, a 2-0 loss in New York. Perhaps Will Bruin’s departure for Gold Cup duty is a blessing in disguise, as a lineup adjustment can perhaps shake something loose.

10. New England Revolution – A 1-1 draw at Chivas USA puts the Revolution record at 3-1-3 since early May. Diego Fagundez got another assist in his ongoing, outstanding season.

9. New York Red Bulls – Finally, Fabian Espindola (pictured, above) got another goal! The former RSL man hit his first in more than two months in a 2-0 win over Houston.

8. Vancouver Whitecaps – After such a long run with very little success away from B.C. Place, Martin Rennie’s team has picked up points on four of its last five road matches. They team is 2-1-2 in that time – which is pretty darned good.

7. Philadelphia Union – Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath howled, feeling he was fouled on the sequence that led to Blas Perez’s late equalizer. But, uh … what in the world was he doing trying to catch that ball rather than aggressively punch it into next week?

6. Seattle Sounders – A big opportunity awaits Wednesday: With the weekend off to rest up, Sigi Schmid and his Sounders get a reeling D.C. United in town.

5. Sporting Kansas City – Kei Kamara made his case for Player of the Week with two very well-taken goals in a 3-2 win over Columbus. Makes you wonder why it took so long for him to get back into SKC’s starting 11 after returning from England.

4. Montreal Impact – A month after giving up three goals at home to Philadelphia, the Impact concedes four at home to Colorado (in a 4-3 loss). Those are sure warning signs that something isn’t quite right in the back.

3. FC Dallas – Another week, another white knuckle comeback. Blas Perez scored one in stoppage time that didn’t count. No matter … he scored another one, this one even deeper into injury time, and it counted as the equalizer in a 2-2 draw in Philadelphia.

2. Real Salt Lake – Tough personnel times are ahead as Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio will miss significant time while on Gold Cup duty.

1. Portland Timbers – The Timbers next chance to extend that showy unbeaten streak (now at 18 games in all competitions, 15 in league play) happens in Columbus this weekend.