Philadelphia Union: It All Comes down to Zac MacMath for Colorado

Jul 4, 2016; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) kicks the ball to goalkeeper Tim Howard (1) during warm ups before the match against the Portland Timbers at Dick
Jul 4, 2016; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) kicks the ball to goalkeeper Tim Howard (1) during warm ups before the match against the Portland Timbers at Dick /

This has been a trying season for former Philadelphia Union keeper Zac MacMath even with the Colorado Rapids reaching new heights as a club.

Zac MacMath has had a rough time during his career since being drafted by the Philadelphia Union. In Philadelphia, he lost his starting role to Andre Blake and was loaned to the Rapids as a result. During that loan spell, MacMath was tasked with playing second fiddle to All-Star keeper Clint Irwin.

MacMath took the lack of playing time in stride and impressed the Colorado staff in training. That gave them the confidence to make MacMath’s move to the Rapids permanent while also shipping Irwin to Toronto FC, a keeper needy team. The starting role was now MacMath’s, or so he thought…

Shortly after the MacMath move was made permanent between the Rapids and the Philadelphia Union, Colorado began to be linked with a move for Tim Howard. It was an unusual link because Designated Player keepers aren’t a thing in MLS.

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Generally, teams are able to acquire starting quality keepers on the cheap and due to being bound by salary cap rules, that’s just what they do. But Colorado was the perfect storm where the Rapids wanted to return to relevancy quickly and what better way to state your intentions than signing the USMNT’s number one keeper.

When it was announced that Howard would join the Rapids midway through the MLS season, MacMath voiced his displeasures for the first time. In an interview with MacMath said,

"“The first thought is disappointment because obviously that means that they aren’t seeing me as the goalkeeper in the foreseeable future. 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. 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.”"

When he wasn’t moved to another team, MacMath did what he has done for his entire career and put the team first. McMath was the keeper behind the best defense in MLS leading the league in most categories for keepers. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise since MacMath is the Philadelphia Union all-time club leader in most goalkeeping categories. Some of the key statistics that MacMath compiled during his four years with the Philadelphia Union are:

  • All time leader in games played with 111
  • All time leader in wins with 33
  • All time leader in saves with 283
  • All time leader in clean sheets with 28

While starting for the Rapids, MacMath had a record of 9-3-5 (win-loss-tie) as he led the team to the top seed in the Western Conference at midseason. MacMath made 39 saves while compiling six clean sheets during that time as well. Perhaps the most impressive stat it that in 17 games, only 13 goals got past MacMath for an insane ratio of .76 goals allowed per game.

His contributions were quickly forgotten once Tim Howard arrived to take MacMath’s job. Howard played in 17 games for the Rapids as well with a 6-3-8 record for the team. He made 54 saves while allowing 19 goals en route to being named a finalist for keeper of the year. While that nomination was largely underserved due to Howard only playing for half the season along with Howard having similar numbers to MacMath, big names draw more attention. And Howard is a much bigger name than MacMath.

After Howard has suffered an injury against Mexico while on National Team duty, things have come full circle for MacMath. Howard will miss four months with an injury to his right adductor leaving MacMath to lead the Rapids in their Western Conference final matchup with the Seattle Sounders. The man who was named the team co-MVP along with Howard will have a chance to prove his worth once more.

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Success against the Sounders will likely set MacMath up well to move to another team next year, one that will hopefully value his services in goal. (Depending on what happens with Andre Blake, it wouldn’t hurt for the Philadelphia Union to give the Rapids a call).

Next Tuesday, MacMath will be between the sticks for the Rapids for a chance at making the MLS Cup. In what has been a trying season for him, this is just where he deserves to be.