Zac MacMath will return to Europe, while teammate Cristhian Hernandez will get his first taste of it, for offseason training, the Union announced today.
Everton will be the location of MacMath's offseason training for the third straight year. MacMath will once again spend time with Everton's Tim Howard, who has a tight grasp on the starting role for the United States Men's National Team, something that the Union's young goalkeeper has long dreamed of obtaining.
Kerith Gabriel, the Union's Digital Media Manager, told followers that Everton, Howard and the Union have a connection beyond the friendly that the two clubs played last year at PPL Park. Union goalkeeping coach and assistant coach Rob Vartughian played soccer in high school with Howard.
Additionally, Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz was still with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, in a similar role, when Howard was transferred to Manchester United, Gabriel noted, his destination in England prior to the Merseyside. Everton's goalkeeping coach has also doubled as the USMNT's coach of the same responsibilities, a fan on Twitter pointed out to Gabriel.
MacMath, the Union's first round selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, fifth overall, has had mixed reviews since taking over from Faryd Mondragon after the 2011 Major League Soccer season, posting good numbers, but he has not been able to put together his talent and skill fully while on the field on a consistent basis. Unless the Union choose to bring in a veteran goalkeeper, like a Mondragon, during this offseason, MacMath will retain his starting role in 2013.
Hernandez will head to Spain for his own version of offseason training, with Real Sociedad. The Brotherly Game was informed in December of 2011 that Hernandez was contemplating his professional future, but was deciding between waiting for the Union to offer a contract or heading to a Spanish team.
The 19-year-old creative midfielder signed a Home Grown Player contract with the Union on March 5, about two weeks after the Brotherly Game reported he was to sign with the team. Hernandez was named the under-17/under-18 academy Player of the Year by the United States Soccer Development Academy before he was made the third Home Grown Player on the Union.