US counting on Tim Howard
Tim Howard (Supplied)
RECIFE, Brazil — Tim Howard rarely makes it through a game
without accepting multiple celebratory embraces from relieved American
It happens almost every time the U.S. goalkeeper
launches his solid, 6-foot-3 frame to make spectacular saves — diving,
leaping and even punching the ball away for difficult stops.
were a number of such moments Sunday night in a 2-2 tie against
Portugal, and the Americans are counting on more of the same when they
face three-time champion Germany on Thursday with a berth in the World
Cup's knockout round at stake.
The 35-year-old Howard will reach
an impressive milestone in the process: The Group G finale will be his
103rd international appearance, passing Kasey Keller for the most by an
Not that it's even on Howard's mind with the
U.S. trying to reach the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for
the first time. The Americans were in position to advance Sunday before
they surrendered a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time in buggy,
muggy Manaus. When Varela's header sailed into the net off a beautiful
cross from two-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, Howard
instantly put his hands on his head and sighed.
If only the game had ended about 30 seconds earlier.
cruel sometimes. It ebbs and flows," said Howard, who has seven saves
through two games. "We try and take every result as it comes. Our
training sessions have been light and lively. We've got a great chance
in the Group of Death, they say, to go through and advance, so we're
excited. I think we had one foot in the door, so there's a small bit of
One of the best goalkeepers in the world and a
star with Everton in England's Premier League, Howard had 15 shutouts —
one behind co-leaders Petr Cech of Chelsea and Wojciech Szczesny of
Arsenal — in 37 league matches this season before joining the Americans
last month for training camp in Northern California.
A back four
of defenders that was scrutinized ahead of this World Cup for its lack
of experience is quick to hug the big man. Howard's hollering is
something each player considers one of the most important factors in
keeping everybody organized.
"He had three or four huge saves.
That's what we expect from him," central defender Matt Besler said. "One
of Tim Howard's biggest qualities is his communication. He gets the
best out of everybody. Everything starts with him. The organization. The
confidence. He's talking to us almost too much it feels like, but it's
great. I tell him I never want him to stop talking. Even if I know what
to do, he's still telling me what to do. Everything kind of starts with
Portugal certainly peppered him with shot after shot from every angle.