The Colorado Rapids will have a different starting goalkeeper when they battle the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Championship next week.
Backup Zac MacMath will take the reins in net after the Rapids announced on Monday that starter Tim Howard will undergo season-ending surgery on a fractured right adductor longus and miss the series with the Sounders.
MacMath has played in 123 matches in his six-year MLS career with a 1.28 goals against average and 35 shutouts. He started in 17 games this season prior to Howard’s arrival on July 4 from English Premier League club Everton during the summer transfer window.
In August, MacMath told The Denver Post that he had been upset about his benching and had wanted to be traded. In 2015, he only played in three games after he was acquired from the Philadelphia Union on a year-long loan, when he backed up current Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
MacMath fared well in his 17 matches this season, allowing just 13 goals for a 0.76 GAA and recording six shutouts. He also went 9-3-5 and helped the Rapids to second place in the Western Conference.
He owns a 3-2-1 lifetime record against the Sounders, which features two shutouts and a 1.00 GAA. He also won each of the teams’ two meetings earlier this season.
His numbers, at least on paper, compare favorably to Howard (MacMath’s stats are on the right in the graphic below).
Guess which Colorado keeper was which this season. (Caveat that keeper stats are fickle, etc.) pic.twitter.com/ENcaiJzmrA— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 14, 2016
But MacMath has had some shaky moments in his career. While with the Union in 2013, he tried to punch away a corner kick from the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan but deflected it into his own net for an own goal. Even earlier this season against Real Salt Lake, he misjudged a through ball and sprinted 35 yards out of his net, only to have teammate Axel Sjoberg chip the ball over his head for an easy finish from Joao Plata.
The Sounders also defeated the MacMath-led Union in the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, scoring twice in extra time to win 3-1.
The biggest loss for the Rapids may just be Howard’s abilities in a penalty-kick shootout, should it get there. He stopped two in Colorado’s Western Conference Semifinals victory over the LA Galaxy, and made one of MLS’ best saves this season with a diving PK stop on RSL’s Javier Morales in August.
Howard has stopped eight of 17 MLS penalty-kick attempts dating back to his days with the New York MetroStars from 1998-2003 and stopped three of seven attempts during the 2016 regular season. In his career, he has stopped 17 of 59 attempts for club and country across all competitions.
MacMath has stopped five of 14 penalty kicks in his career, and did not allow a goal in his lone attempt this season. The New England Revolution’s Lee Nguyen hit the post in the Revs’ 2-0 win in early September after MacMath took down Kelyn Rowe in the 18-yard-box to draw the penalty.