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SALT LAKE CITY — With the 2020 MLS season just around the corner, many might be wondering: who’s going to replace Nick Rimando?
Replacing Rimando will be some big gloves to fill, but the three goal-keepers on Real Salt Lake’s squad seem to be up for the challenge.
David Ochoa and Andrew Putna were on the team last season, and Zac MacMath was signed to the team in December. Who are these players? What’s their histories? Can they really replace one of the all-time greats?
Ochoa was signed to a homegrown contract in 2018 and was crucial for the Real Monarchs last year, where he went 8-4-4 with four shutouts during the 2019 season. He also led the team to four straight playoff victories and a USL Championship title.
Ochoa also helped lead the United States U-20 men’s national team to its second consecutive CONCACAF U-20 title game in 2019, and made two appearances in the U-20 World Cup.
Putna played at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he was a captain during his junior and senior years. He was drafted in the 2017 Superdraft by Real Salt Lake and played in four matches with the Monarchs during his rookie season.
Putna made his MLS debut at halftime of an Aug. 15 game against LAFC, and played 49 minutes without giving up a goal. His first full game for RSL came a few days later as the team topped Houston 2-1.
"It’s an honor to play for a team like RSL," Putna told KSL.com. "Every time I put on the shirt it’s exciting and I love being in there."
Putna has played in seven games for RSL and holds a 3-2-1 record. He has clocked 585 minutes, totaled two shutouts, and 18 saves during his MLS career.
"I feel like I’m just trying to be the best player I can be. I don’t think anybody can fill (Rimando’s) shoes," Putna said. "I think we’re just looking forward to Orlando and whoever is in there, whether it’s me, whether its Zac, whether it’s Ochoa, I think we’re just trying to play the best we know how to play."
MacMath signed with RSL on Dec. 17 and became the third goalie on the RSL roster. In college, MacMath led the Maryland Terrapins to an NCAA national championship as a freshman in 2008.
He was drafted fifth overall in 2011 to the Philadelphia Union. MacMath played nine years in the MLS and holds a record of 47-54-40. His journey to Salt Lake City includes stops in Philadelphia, Colorado and Vancouver.
When asked about his MLS experience and the benefit it could have on Real Salt Lake, MacMath said: "Just having the experience of playing in a good amount of games so far and being in a bunch of different locker rooms with a lot of different personalities and culture brings a level of experience that I hope to bring to the team in helping solidify the back line in being a very good defensive team."
International soccer also called his name a few different times as MacMath has played on U-17, U-20 and U-23 teams for the U.S. During his time on the U-20 national team, MacMath backstopped the U.S. to a Milk Cup title in 2010 and also played in the CONCACAF championships in 2011.
Because of his experience, MacMath appears to be the front-runner for RSL's starting goalkeeper position in 2020.
"I’m not really trying to fit into Nick’s (Rimando) shoes," MacMath said. "I’ve got to play to the best of my ability and help the team be in the best position possible. After a pretty successful year off, I’m excited to be with Real Salt Lake and hopefully we can make a push and win some hardware this year."
Although it will be difficult to replace a goalie like Rimando, Ochoa, Putna and MacMath will do their best to fill that void. RSL takes on Orlando City in their season opener on Feb. 29, and their home opener against New York Red Bulls on March 7.