FourFourTwo's USMNT 50: No. 7 – Tim Howard
Remember all the way back to March, when a whole lot of people had a whole lot of negative things to say about Tim Howard’s return to MLS – and, particularly, his signing with the Colorado Rapids? That feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
The situation played out better than anyone – Rapids and Howard included – could have hoped. Colorado came ever so close to reaching MLS Cup after finishing dead last in the West in 2015. It was a remarkable run sparked partly by Howard, partly by Jermaine Jones and largely coach Pablo Mastroeni constructing a whole which was greater than the sum of its parts. (It’s that time of year when we can ignore all the bad predictions we had, and tell you, ‘We told you so’ on one of our correct guesses.)
Howard will turn 38 years old in March, but Father Time’s clock ticks differently for goalkeepers – just ask Gianluigi Buffon. Howard was stellar in his return to MLS, keeping seven shutouts in 17 matches and giving up just over a goal per game. It was all highlighted by his two-save performance in the penalty-kick shootout against the LA Galaxy to see the Rapids through to the Western Conference final. Howard is still a superior shot-stopper – that Belgium game wasn’t that long ago – and he still has to be considered the clubhouse leader to start in net for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup…should the Americans get there, of course.
That’s likely the big-picture end game for Howard, whose Colorado contract reportedly runs through the 2019 season: Get the U.S. to another World Cup and again be the No. 1 there. MLS is the vehicle through which he can do that. An MLS Cup title would be a bonus. Howard is currently sidelined by a groin injury sustained in World Cup qualifying in November, but he’ll be right back in the mix for Bruce Arena when he returns. Howard is still very clearly the best goalkeeper the U.S. men’s national team has. That might say something about the developmental pipeline drying up, but it says a lot more about Howard’s superior skills.