COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – With the arrival of Tim Howard this week, the Colorado Rapids now have not just one, but two of the best goalkeepers in MLS.
In 16 matches started for Colorado this season, Zac MacMath has placed his name alongside the top flight goalkeepers in MLS, with a goals against average (0.69) that is tops among ‘keepers with more than 10 starts in 2016.
Howard’s arrival — he’ll be available for selection in Colorado’s July 4 match against the Portland Timbers (9 pm ET; FREE stream on MLSsoccer.com) — likely marks an impending return to the Rapids bench for MacMath, who assumed the starting goalkeeper job when Colorado traded incumbent Clint Irwin to Toronto FC this past offseason.
“To work with a guy like Tim Howard would be a privilege, someone that I can learn from and get the chance to work with each day,” he told Goal.com shortly after the announced signing of Howard. “But at the end of the day for me it's about playing and getting better each game and that obviously won't happen if Tim Howard is here."
Howard acknowledged the situation in his introductory press conference earlier this week.
“We have a very good relationship. I know him and his family very well,” he said of MacMath, who trained under Howard at Everton multiple times earlier in his career. “Unfortunately, there’s a business side of things, a professional side.”
It’s not the first time MacMath finds himself pushed to the bench in favor of a World Cup veteran. In the midst of the 2014 season with Philadelphia he saw Algerian Raïs M’Bolhi assume the reins, eventually leading to the loan agreement that sent MacMath to Colorado.
MacMath drew parallels between the two situations: “Obviously the Raïs thing wasn’t announced early in the season [like Howard’s signing]. Having the time mentally to prepare for something like that and knowing Tim [personally] has its benefits.
"It’s definitely different with the team being at the top of the table, so it’s perhaps more difficult in that way. I got to play a handful of games after Raïs came in, so I’m not sure how that will work [with Howard].”
It remains to be seen what impact Howard’s insertion will have on a team that is riding with the best record in MLS. But it’s a new challenge that the longtime Premier League veteran is ready to take head on.
“It’s a fine balance. Things are going well here and you don’t want to screw that up,” Howard said. "At the same time, you need an injection of some ‘umph,' something that can continue to drive the vehicle in the right direction. I’ve been around enough locker rooms, big players and young players to know how to navigate that. If you put the work in everyday, that’s what shines through.”