The Colorado Rapids and Philadelphia Union carry plenty of similarities into Saturday’s match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Both sides sit in first place in their respective conferences and have a young coach leading the way. But the one similarity that many point out right away is goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
MacMath, who spent four seasons with the Union, is scheduled to start in between the pipes for Colorado in the top of the table clash on Saturday.
“There will definitely be some emotions on Saturday against my former team finally and against a bunch of good friends and former teammates I had the pleasure of playing with for four years,” MacMath said. “There definitely is emotion, but hopefully once the game gets going, it’s a normal game.”
The 24-year-old, who became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS to appear in 100 matches during his time with the Union, pointed out some of the qualities both Rapids manager Pablo Mastroeni and Union boss Jim Curtin possess.
“There are obviously some similarities,” MacMath said. “Both are young coaches who recently made the transition from player to coach. There’s a lot of learning on the job. I think especially last year we all had some growing pains here at the Rapids. I know with Jim in his first year as head coach, we had some growing pains as well.”
“Growing pains and then figuring out how to build their personality as a coach and implement it on their players has been a big thing for both of them,” MacMath said. “Obviously this season both coaches have done really good with their teams and it’s led to really good records so far.”
Just like he did in Philadelphia, MacMath faces a threat to his starting role from an incoming goalkeeper. In 2014, MacMath was benched for Algerian goalkeeper Rais MBolhi. When the Copa America Centenario concludes, MacMath will be joined in Colorado by United States men’s national team stalwart Tim Howard.
“The Rais thing wasn’t announced as early in the season, but having more time mentally to prepare for something like that and obviously knowing Tim ahead of time has its benefits as well,” MacMath said. “There’s definitely some similarities.”
“But it’s going to be different with being top of the table right now and the way the team has been great so far,” MacMath said. “So it’s definitely going to be more difficult in that way and also I got to play a handful of games after Rais came in so not sure how that will work.”
Another netminder MacMath is familiar with is current Union starter Andre Blake, who was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in 2014, which was MacMath’s final year in Philadelphia.
“Andre was already a very good goalkeeper coming out of college,” MacMath said. “It had to take time for him and he’s played a decent amount of games now. You can see his maturation over the last two years really has come to fruition. I always saw the potential he has and obviously it’s showing recently with the Union and Jamaica.”
The matchup of the two goalkeepers will be the first of its kind since MacMath was on loan to the Rapids last season and could not play against the Union. Based off the performances of both in net this season, it most likely won’t be the last.