The home stretch of the MLS NEXT Pro season is increasingly seeing some new blood inserted in lineups, and in a few cases, academy youngsters have been key in making the difference for those still in the wide-open playoff race.
Real Monarchs found themselves in that exact situation in Matchday 25, and goalkeeper William Mackay's performance headlined a nervy 1-0 win over Whitecaps FC 2. Mackay, a 15-year-old Real Salt Lake Academy man made himself the undeniable choice for the Rising Star of the Matchday honor with his performance that kept his side out of the clutches of playoff elimination for yet another week.
Mackay posted a clean sheet that forced five saves and defied the odds against a 1.19xGA projection.
Mackay is the second Real Monarchs player to claim the Rising Star award in 2023, and the third goalkeeper to earn the honor.
Two of those saves came within the span of mere seconds of one another. The youngster was able to have a laugh about it when recollecting his memory of the heroic moment.
"The first ball I went up and contested it and got undercut on my tailbone, I kind of hurt," he said with a laugh. "And then the second one just bounced around, just able to able to claim it,"
The performance marked back-to-back weeks of season-saving clean sheets for Mackay.
Mackay and the Monarchs continue their postseason push in MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 26 where they re-enter the Rocky Mountain rivalry looking to avenge a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids 2 from back in July. You can catch that match and several others here on MLSNEXTPro.com and MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.