Tim Howard flew into the US capital, met with his soon-to-be Colorado Rapids teammates, gave a halftime interview with ESPN and then departed RFK Stadium before Sunday’s match against D.C. United had even finished.
In his wake, the US national team star and newest Rapids Designated Player signing left current Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath as the odd man out again, even if everyone is saying the right things.
“I think it would be difficult for any human being,” Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni said of the situation, following his side’s 1-1 draw with D.C. “Zac is a very unique character, where he’s experienced this in Philadelphia before. And the growth that he has had in the past year has been remarkable.”
Two seasons ago with Philadelphia, MacMath lost out on his starting role with the Union’s pursuit of another 2014 World Cup standout, Algerian Rais M’bolhi.
MacMath backed up Clint Irwin for most of last season, but moved into the starting job when Irwin joined Toronto FC. All the while, rumors swirled of the Rapids’ interest in Howard, as the 37-year-old fell out of favor at Everton.
With the deal now official, even MacMath can’t deny the positive impact Howard could bring to a side that has already boosted its profile with the earlier addition of fellow USMNT stalwart Jermaine Jones.
“We see this guy who has done so well in the EPL for so long and has played in a bunch of World Cups, and now he’s one of our teammates,” MacMath said. “His experience will come into the locker room and have a pretty good feeling over all the guys."
That said, Sunday’s news was still tough to digest for MacMath.
“I kind of had a heads up on it that they were going to make it official this weekend,” MacMath said. “It wasn’t easy, to be honest. But at the same time, this is my job, and I have to come in to perform. And I know I’ve got a few months to really prove myself in this league.”
The Rapids will have played half their season by the time Howard is scheduled to arrive this summer, giving MacMath some time to build a body of work as a No. 1, even if that's to sell himself to a future club.
“We had a good conversation with Zac a couple days ago, and my challenge to him is to be the best goalkeeper in this league come the All-Star Game,” Mastroeni said. “And then happen what may, we’ll deal with it then.”
MacMath has only conceded two goals so far in Colorado's modest 1-1-1 start to the new season.
Midfielder Sam Cronin said MacMath has been the Rapids best player so far this campaign, but he also can’t deny the assets Howard brings to the table.
“Obviously with Tim, just experience, instantly he raises the level,” Cronin said. “His experience playing in all different types of games with different teams is really valuable and raises the profile of the club without question. And he’s a world-class goalkeeper. Obviously the team benefits from that. But there’s no question Zac’s got a huge career in front of him.”