No matter where you fall on the scale of how you feel about Tim Howard, we can all agree that the man is a legend. In his prime, Howard was (and some could argue still is) a beast of a keeper. He’s the Secretary of Defense, a name he earned for having an impressive 16 saves against Belgium in 2014. He’s the guy that consistently makes amazing penalty saves, including some pretty major ones to help take the Rapids past the LA Galaxy in last year’s playoffs.
(According to a study by researchers at Brunel University in London, professional goalkeepers guess right 57% of the time. Of that 57%, only 22% of the shots are actually saved. Transfermarkt says Howard has saved 18 of 65 penalty shots in his career, with is almost 28%. But I digress.)
No matter how I feel about the Colorado Rapids signing Tim Howard, he has done a lot for this team - whether it’s bringing in fans, attracting other players, or just giving Colorado a little credibility. That being said, I personally think his play started going downhill since his groin surgery at the end of 2016. Howard still makes impressive saves, but his goal kicks are sent straight out of bounds way more than they should and there’s just something off about Howard’s play. Maybe it’s his decision making? Maybe he’s not moving as fast? And we’re not just seeing it in Colorado - we’re seeing in on the main stage for the U.S. Men’s National Team as well.
You could say the goals last night were “wonder goals”, and I’ll give you the first one as a fluke. But that second goal? From 30 yards out when we all saw him winding up for the shot? Cobi Jones said Howard had “no chance”, but two years ago, I think he does. (You can watch that one again right here.) But it’s not even all about last night. We’ve seen questionable decisions from Howard in other World Cup Qualifiers, as well as this season with the Rapids.
Rapids Rabbi looked at Howard’s stats in terms of goals against for the Rapids this year, and it wasn’t pretty. From Backpass: “Aha. I see Tim Howard is... lower down, with a +3.14 GA-xGA. Right around Jake Gleeson and Matt Lampson. Who are both fine goalkeepers. Fine goalkeepers who don’t earn $2.5 million a year. That’s... not great.
In fact, of the 25 MLS GKs with more than 1000 minutes of time this season, Tim ranks 16th in GA-xGA. He hasn’t been bad, he’s just been OK. Tim Melia, ranked number 1 in GA-xGA, has been spectacular this year, and his team is playoff-bound.”
So he’s been okay. But historically, Tim Howard is not an “okay” keeper. He’s the best, our favorite, the GOAT.
When the next World Cup rolls around, Howard will be 43 years old. We know that he is done on the international level. (He has to be, right?) Both Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena have talked about developing younger goalkeepers, including Colorado’s own Ethan Horvath, and there’s no better time than now.
Then there’s Howard’s domestic career, as he is signed with the Rapids through the 2019 season, which would put him at 40 years old. Assuming we are starting to see the decline now, where will he be next year? In two years?
Last night, Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla tweeted what many of us were thinking:
I would not be surprised if Tim Howard walks from Rapids before next season. He was using Colorado as WC training site.— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) October 11, 2017
So I posed the question myself on Twitter and Facebook. At the time I wrote this, the Twitter poll had 182 votes, with 65% thinking that Howard will leave the Rapids. On Facebook, the overwhelming majority believe that he will leave.
I was feeling pretty confident that he would, too, but then Tracey made a good point:
I feel like he wants to be remembered positively, not for last night. He can use his leadership/experience to rebuild the team and succeed.— Tracey Thompson (@tlthompson82) October 11, 2017
Could Howard end his career on that note? And on a losing Rapids season?
As @MileHighSoapBox pointed out,
I just don’t know. I see him retiring rather than asking for trade or move. That said, Rapids solid at keeper either way.— Peter Soeth (@milehighsoapbox) October 11, 2017
What I find perhaps most frustrating is that Howard never takes the blame. He never says, “yeah I messed up. I contributed to this loss.” Last night, for example, he blamed nerves. An unfortunate goal. A wonder strike. Being second to a lot of balls. Not holding on to enough balls going forward. Not knowing what to expect from Trinidad and Tobago. He mentioned just about every aspect of the game besides his own.
In the end, no matter what happens, Howard is a competitor. I don’t know what he would do without soccer (besides finish his studies at SNHU of course), and honestly, I don’t know what US soccer looks like without him.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.