Union's MacMath draws on Howard's wisdom ahead of '13

Zac MacMath has repeatedly acknowledged that he wasn’t happy with his performance last season. But the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper believes he will head into the 2013 campaign with more confidence and a better sense of how to be a successful.

Part of the reason for that is Tim Howard.

For a third straight year, MacMath spent a couple weeks of his offseason training at Everton, where he worked out with and got advice from the US national team star.

“Obviously it wasn’t the best season for me personally or the team, but I think he understood,” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com by phone this week. “He’s probably been through that before in his career. So he just told me to take all of the lessons and the experiences I went through this past season and bring it all to the upcoming season and try to get better and be consistent throughout the year.”

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During his November training string with the English Premier League side, MacMath also worked on new techniques with Chris Woods, who he called “one of the best goalkeeper coaches in the world.” And he said he picked up new things just by watching Howard, on and off the field.

“It was just seeing how disciplined he is with his nutrition and diet and how he keeps his body in the best shape, so he can prepare for two or three games per week,” MacMath said. “Seeing his everyday routine and he goes about his life – it just magnifies what I need to do.”

While this is the third straight offseason MacMath has trained with Everton, it’s the first time he went there knowing he’s the Union’s No. 1 goalkeeper. Last year, he was thrust into that role early in the preseason after starter Faryd Mondragón unexpectedly returned to his native Colombia. And while he didn’t admit it at the time, not having enough preparation time perhaps contributed to the Union’s slow start.

MacMath believes that will be different heading into his second full season as a starter.

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“I worked a lot harder this offseason than I did previously because I know I’m going to be the No. 1 guy and I have to be ready from day one,” he said.

And if he ever needs more tips or advice during the season, he knows he can text or call Howard. Or he can just turn on an Everton game and continue to study one of his best mentors.

“Every time I go over there, every time I watch him on TV, he does things you’re really in awe of,” MacMath said. “Some of the things he does, some of his decision-making attributes … as a goalkeeper I see a lot more than other fans do and it’s amazing to see some of the things he can do.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.