Colorado Rapids' Zac MacMath shrugs off Tim Howard rumors as preseason begins: "I'm the starting goalkeeper here"

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – Following the Colorado Rapids’ trade of All-Star goalkeeper Clint Irwin to Toronto FC, Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath enters preseason confident as the team’s No. 1 keeper, despite reports connecting Colorado to the pursuit of Everton and US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard.

“I believe that I’m the starting goalkeeper here and it’s something I’m excited for,” MacMath told reporters on Monday morning. “It’s a lot easier for me to know that I’ll be there, and hopefully my preparation through preseason up until the first game will be right and we can start off on the right note.”

MacMath confirmed that the coaching staff has told him that he will be given the nod as the Rapids No. 1 ‘keeper as the team began preseason training sessions. MacMath, 24, takes over for the 26-year-old Irwin, who had been Colorado’s top choice keeper for nearly all of three seasons since taking over for an injured Matt Pickens in 2013.

“It was tough,” MacMath said of the choice to let Irwin go. “Obviously Clint had an unbelievable year last year; he posted a lot of shutouts and made the All Star team. I think we both pushed each other hard and made each other better each day.”

Colorado declined to exercise an option of the loan to keep MacMath which would’ve send the No. 2 overall pick in this season’s draft to Philly, but reacquired him in early December for a second-round pick in 2017.

The former fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Philadelphia Union spent last year on loan with Colorado. The audition was evidently enough to impress Colorado’s coaching staff.

“I think they were pretty happy with the three games I played. Obviously the Portland game was a tough one for me, but in general, my style of play is a bit different from Clint’s and hopefully that will impact the team in a positive way,” MacMath explained. “I think with using my feet a bit more, we will be able to play out of the back. It will give us a different style of play.”

Though Everton manager Roberto Martinez said on Sunday that he hadn’t received any inquiries from the Rapids regarding Howard, the USMNT star's uncertain future could leave rumors swirling around Colorado's camp throughout the January transfer window. Yet MacMath retains ample confidence as he heads into this week’s preseason activities.

“You’ve just got to put that in the back of your rearview mirror,” he said of the reports. “There’s always going to be someone trying to take your job, regardless if it’s Tim Howard or anyone else. I just have to do my job and make it as hard as possible for someone else to take it.”