The Colorado Rapids got some seemingly bad news over the weekend. They learned that starting goalkeeper Tim Howard will miss months, not weeks or days, thanks to an abductor injury suffered while playing for the USA against Mexico on Friday. This will not only keep him out for the remainder of the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it could delay the start of his preseason next year as well. So, what happens to the Colorado Rapids without Tim Howard?
Colorado Rapids Will Be Fine Without Tim Howard
At first glance, this looks like a disaster. Their very expensive designated player in goal has gone down for the rest of the season and maybe more. The hero of the penalty shootout against LA Galaxy will not be around to see his team through the Western Conference Final and on to MLS Cup. Who could possibly fill the void left by such a big name? How will Colorado keep the rising Seattle Sounders attack that features Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro?
Well, the Rapids and their fans won’t have to panic, for they have a very capable back up option in Zac MacMath.
The Rapids Win With Zac MacMath
Sure, the 25-year-old has only started one match since the Copa America break, but the team was doing very very well with him between the sticks before Howard’s arrival. In the 16 matches with MacMath in goal, the Rapids stormed out to 32 points thanks to nine wins and five draws. They had only conceded 11 goals on the season, seven fewer than any other MLS side.
When he was replaced by the national team hero, Colorado was in the middle of an 11 match unbeaten run. That run included a pair of wins agaisnt the Seattle Sounders, who Colorado take on with all the Western Conference marbles on the line.
Since July 5, when Howard made his first start of the year, the Rapids record has been six wins, four losses, and eight draws for only 24 points in two more games. So, it isn’t like their record is any better with Howard in there. Granted, other factors like Jermaine Jones what felt like an eternity with an injury helped out, but if Howard were truly making a difference, he would have been able to step up despite that.
MacMath has been such a capable keeper that there were questions surrounding the Rapids signing of Howard to begin with. They were so high on him at the beginning of the year that they traded away all star goalkeeper Clint Irwin to make room for him. Pundits everywhere questioned why the Rapids were spending money on Howard instead of somebody who could bolster their weak attack.
MacMath and Howard are More or Less the Same
From a raw statistical standpoint, Howard and MacMath are more or less the same keeper this season. Both made 17 starts in the regular season. MacMath stopped 39 of the 57 shots on target he faced for a save percentage of 68.4%. Howard only saved 54 of 73 shots, or 74%. MacMath averaged 0.77 goals allowed per game. Howard averaged 1.12.
Colorado keeps goals out by playing well organized defense in front of their strong goalkeeper. A bigger disaster for the Rapids would be if a player like Sam Cronin or Axel Sjoberg went down. It’s the defensive midfield and back four that do the dirty work of keeping the ball out of the net for this team. Their system makes the goalkeeper more or less interchangeable.
It will be the job of Cronin, Sjoberg, Michael Azira, and the rest of Colorado’s defensive corps to keep the likes of Morris and Lodeiro at bay. If they can’t do that, it won’t matter who their goalkeeper is. Thankfully, Zac MacMath is a great keeper in his own right who can clean up for any defensive mistakes just as well as Tim Howard can. Don’t let the massive gap national team appearances between the two alter your perceptions here.
So, Colorado Rapids fans, don’t panic when you read that Tim Howard is done for the year. Young Zac MacMath is here to save the day.