Tim Howard, last in line of top American goalkeepers, enters U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame


Tim Howard was 10 years old when he walked into Giants Stadium’s upper deck in June 1989 for a United States-Peru friendly that featured goalkeeper Tony Meola making his second international appearance.

“My earliest soccer memory,” Howard recalled last month.

Howard went on to follow Meola in a line of outstanding American goalkeepers, and on Saturday he will join Meola, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel in the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

“Obviously, it is the honor of my life,” Howard said.

Josh McKinney, captain of the U.S. seven-a-side Paralympic team, also was elected from the player ballot. Midfielder Tisha Venturini-Hoch was chosen from the veteran ballot and United Soccer Leagues founder Francisco Marcos was picked from the builder category.

Now 45, Howard started at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and made 121 international appearances from 2002-17, most among American goalkeepers. His 16 saves in a 2-1, second-round extra time loss to Belgium in 2014 was a zenith. Howard’s finale was the nadir, the 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.

“U.S. Soccer needed a wake up call,” Howard said, looking back.

He played with Major League Soccer’s New York/New Jersey MetroStars from 1998 to 2003, then in England for Manchester United (2003-06) and Everton (2006-16). He returned to MLS with Colorado from 2016-19 and finished in 2020 with second-tier Memphis, where he is a non-controlling owner and sporting director.

No top successor has emerged at the national team.

Zack Steffen failed to get regular time at Manchester City and returned to Major League Soccer this year. Matt Turner lost his starting job in the Premier League after a series of soft goals, and Ethan Horvath is in England’s second division.

“We had it locked. We had this goalkeeping thing figured out for a long time, didn’t we? Going all the way back. And, yeah, it just seems like we’ve had a little bit of a rut,” Howard said.

“The game has continued to evolve, and I don’t know if our young goalkeepers are getting pushed as hard as they need to, to that breaking point,” he continued. “One of the things that Kasey Keller said to me when I signed with Manchester United, and it stuck with me forever, he just said, look, in order to be judged as a goalkeeper you have to play 100 games at the highest level. And right now, our young guys aren’t getting those games to even be able to judge them.

“I like Zack, and I like Matt. I do like Matt’s wherewithal, fortitude and mental toughness,” Howard added. “Zack’s talent is unmatched and I’ve always said about Zack he could be the greatest U.S. goalkeeper of all time because of the physical tools that he possesses.”

In his fourth season as an analyst for NBC’s Premier League coverage, Howard faulted the American preparation system.

“The goalkeeping coaching has dropped a level, as well, if I’m being brutally honest,” he said, “because when you look at some of these top goalkeepers that we’ve produced through the years, they’ve always had high-level goalkeeping coaches. And I can say that because I’ve seen the worst of the worst, and I’ve seen the best of the best in my career. And I think high-level goalkeeping coaching is down.”

Howard was open early in his career that he had Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder causing involuntary, repetitive movements. He became an advocate and fundraiser for those afflicted.

“I just wanted to kind of get ahead of it and put it out there before anybody could really scrutinize and criticize me for it, knowing that I was climbing that ladder and going to be in the spotlight had I become a starter,” he said. “I appreciate the sensitivity with which people have covered my journey with Tourette syndrome throughout the course of my career because, quite frankly, I’m being brutally honest with you, I can handle it. There’s nothing anyone can throw at me that I can’t handle.”


AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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