Celebrating Tim Howard’s career: from the Imperials to Goodison Park

Tim Howard

Tim Howard’s 21-year footballing career will come to a halt at the conclusion of the 2019 MLS season, as he finally hangs up the cleats at 40 years of age.

He will leave the league and the game having boasted an amazing career, one of which is arguably the most important to helping pave a way for his fellow countrymen. As a tribute to his contributions to the sport, I’m going to take you on a stroll down memory lane, from the North Jersey Imperials to Everton FC and everywhere in between.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream

In 1997, Tim Howard began play for his first team in the North Jersey Imperials, who are now defunct. It didn’t take him very long to assert himself above his counterparts as he was brought through to the New York MetroStars after just six appearances.

In his Major League Soccer debut, Howard made five saves in a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids, which served as his only performance of the season. In the next two seasons, he began solidifying his status on the roster. Through those seasons, he featured in 18 games (16 of which he started) making 77 saves, which produced a win/loss record of 6-902.

By 2001, Howard was the starting goalkeeper for the MetroStars. That year he produced 146 saves, four clean sheets and conceded just 35 goals which contributed to the team’s 13-10-3 record for the season. That year, he was subsequently awarded the 2001 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award.

The 2002 campaign served as Howard’s last full season in the league before exiting for Britain, and he made sure it was one of his best. He started in all 27 games of the season, contributing four clean sheets and 140 saves. The team’s record didn’t reflect Howard’s excellence however, as they finished 11-14-2 on the season.

Best joins the best

After just 13 games in 2003, Manchester United came calling. They paid a lowly fee of $4 million, which in today’s current climate would be considered almost criminal. That said, the deal was done, Tim Howard was named the starting goalkeeper ahead of Fabien Barthez for the season. The move made him just the third American footballer to join the club, and the first to do so since Edward Mcllvenny.

Adjusting to one of the greatest clubs in the world was never going to be an easy task, and that was reflected in Howard’s time in Manchester. He, like the club, had his bright moments. Most notably, in his first ever game against Arsenal in the 2003 Community Shield, when he saved the game-winning penalty in a 4-3 win on pens.


In March of the 2004 season, Manchester United were dumped out of the UEFA Champions League by Porto, with Howard’s blunder in the game contributing significantly to the side’s defeat. As a result of his mistake, he never regained much form, consistently dropping in and out of the first team. He and backup keeper Roy Carroll switched on a number of occasions, until they were both eventually replaced by Edwin van der Sar.

He concluded his career at United having produced 33 clean sheets in 77 appearances. In his time at the club he also achieved silverware, having won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the FA Cup.

True Blue

Everton acquired the services of Tim Howard on loan in the 2006/07 campaign, however, they finalised a deal which brought him to the club permanently following the conclusion of that season.

His first season after joining on a four-year deal was arguably his best. He notched 14 clean sheets on the year which was instrumental in the club’s 5th place finish in the league. The next season, he got one back over his former club, as the Blues advanced in the FA Cup semi-finals, with Howard saving two of United’s penalties.

His 100th appearance came on 8th November 2008 in a 3-1 win over West Ham United. He also produced another career year as he set the club record for most clean sheets in a season.

‘THAT’ goal

During the 2011/12 campaign, Tim Howard contributed the fourth ever goal by a goalkeeper in a 2-1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers. In what is now football folklore, THAT goal is often referred to lovingly by fans of all clubs, however, Howard himself does not rejoice in that same sentiment. Following the game, he spoke of his discomfort surrounding the goal.

“It was cruel. You saw the back fours and the keepers not being able to believe balls all night, and at the back one wrong step and it can be a nightmare. For our goal I was disappointed from a goalkeepers’ union standpoint. You never want to see that happen. It’s not nice, it’s embarrassing, so I felt for Adam but you have to move on from it.”

This, for me, is the epitome of everything Howard stands for. Honesty, integrity and accountability. These being qualities he consistently displayed more than most throughout his illustrious career.

On 20th August 2012, Howard set the record for most Premier League appearances in a row for one club at 187. He maintained the streak until he suffered an injury against Oldham Athletic in February 2013 in an FA Cup replay which meant that he fell two games short of breaking Neville Southall’s club record of 212 consecutive league appearance all-time.

Howard remained Everton’s no.1 for the majority of the latter years in his career at the club until the 2015/16 season when he was replaced by Joel Robles. He made his 400th appearance for the club in a 6-2 win over Sunderland in the November of 2015.

His 132 clean sheets through 399 appearances still serves as the tied seventh most in Premier League history today.

Merseyside served as his home for a decade and became the place where he really honed his craft.

He became a household name who both the club and the fans adored. Despite the mutual affection, he decided that after much deliberation it was time to return to his homeland, and he did exactly that joining the Colorado Rapids in 2016. Before departing Stateside, he left a lasting statement in his final game for the Toffees. He stated: “I will remain an Evertonian for life. This will always be my team, my club.”

Circle complete

On 28th June 2016, Howard was officially revealed to the world as Colorado’s no. 1.

The week leading up to that moment was a complete whirlwind in the media, as he featured among global headlines. Rapid, and US fans in general for that matter, couldn’t believe their luck. Timmy Howard was coming home.

Irrespective of the fact that he joined the club mid-season, he was pivotal to the club’s success. He registered nine clean sheets in 19 games, whilst also saving two penalties against the Los Angeles Galaxy which allowed the Rapids to move on to the Western Conference Championship game.

Unfortunately, however, the Rapids were defeated 3-1 over two-legs by the Seattle Sounders.

In the following two years, he featured in 59 games, recording 12 clean sheets in the process. Domestically, the team performed fairly poorly, finishing in 11th place in both seasons.

Finally, we’ve reached the 2019 campaign, Howard’s last. Ultimately, the season will serve as a victory lap for the keeper, who’s career will go down in history as one of the greatest by an American footballer. As impressive as his domestic career is, many believe his international one to be far superior.

American Hero

Tim Howard is one of the longest serving members of the United States Men’s National Team, having competed since 1999. It was in that year that he represented the US as part of the under-20 team at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship. There he found great success as the team advanced to the knockout stages after a 1-0 victory over England and a 3-1 win against Cameroon. In spite of the fact that the USA were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Spain, the experience vastly improved Howard’s skillset.

As a result of his performances, he was called up to the under-23 national team for the Pan American games in July of the same year. He earned a bronze medal after the USA dismissed Canada by two goals to one in the Bronze Medal match.

Although he was the backup at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Howard’s first international cap at senior level didn’t come until 10th March 2002 in a game against Ecuador.

He was called up to the FIFA World Cup for the first time ever at the 2006 edition. He was named the backup to Kasey Keller, but never actually participated in a game as the USA drew one, whilst losing the other two, finishing last in group E.

With the announcement of Bob Bradley as the country’s new head coach, Howard was elected as the starter.

In his first stint in the position, he helped guide the USA to the clinching of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Two years later, in 2009, Howard was named the starting goalkeeper for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Despite not keeping a clean sheet throughout the group stage, the USA narrowly made it through to the knockouts on goal difference. In the semi-finals, his eight saves earned him his first clean sheet of the tournament, as they defeated the number one ranked team in the world and reigning European champions, Spain. Following the United States’ second-place finish in the tournament, Howard was awarded the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper.

In 2010, the USA’s fairytale World Cup arrived in South Africa, as Howard and co. reached the round of 16. He found success against England once again, as he achieved the man of the match award for a stellar performance against England which ended in a 1-1 draw. He also added a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Algeria, whilst remaining undefeated as they drew with Slovenia 2-2.

Regardless, the dream came to an end, as Ghana stole a 2-1 victory in added extra time.

After picking up a silver medal in the 2011 Gold Cup, Howard once again made the trip to another World Cup, this time in Brazil.

In matchday one, USA produced sweet revenge against Ghana, defeating them 2-1 to kick-off a fantastic campaign on the world’s biggest stage. Howard was awarded the man of the match in the country’s 2-2 draw with Portugal in the following game.

Despite suffering a 1-0 defeat to Germany in matchday three, the US still advanced to the knockouts on goal difference once more. Unsurprisingly, the round of 16 game against Belgium fell to overtime again and the result was identical to that of the 2010 World Cup. On the other hand, Howard’s 15 saves in the matchup set the record for most saves in a World Cup game ever.

Tim Howard’s immense performance against Belgium resulted in mass hysteria over on social media, as the hashtag “#ThingsTimHowardCouldSave” completely took over.

Upon his announcement of international retirement in 2017, Howard concluded his career as the most capped USMNT goalkeeper of all-time, as well as ranking as the eighth most capped player ever, with 121 caps. His 42 clean sheets rank second in country history, 5 behind Kasey Keller’s record of 47.

End of an era

As the curtain begins to close, a career begins to slow and a legend ends, the legacy remains.

Tim Howard’s spectacular career has no doubt paved a path for more Americans to perform at a high level in football. Evidently, there has been an influx of American talents grace our game in the past two decades, which of course probably wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of Howard, Keller and Brad Friedel.

MLS holds the talents of one of the greatest to ever do it for one more year at least, and with the Rapids trending upwards as a team, there may be one final chance for Howard to add another piece of silverware to an already bolstered collection. One thing is for sure, regardless of the result of the 2019 MLS campaign, everyone will have one thing to say.

Thank you, Tim.

With thanks to: FIFA.com, mufcinfo.com, evertonfc.com, MLSsoccer.com, Transfermarkt.com & Wikipedia.co.uk for the statistical information. 

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About Greg Forbes 76 Articles
Greg is a lover of American football, ice hockey, basketball and baseball. He enjoys devoting his time to watching and writing about each sport, following a team in each game.

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