The veteran goalkeeper nearly kept the U.S. national team's World Cup run alive with a performance for the ages.It can be said without a hint of hyperbole: Tim Howard delivered a performance for the ages.
While the U.S. national team saw its valiant World Cup run end with a 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time Tuesday, the American goalkeeper offered an outing unrivaled in the tournament's modern era. As the Belgian siege grew in strength, the stops just kept on coming. Parries. Kick saves. Pokes over the bar.
When all was said and done, Howard had made 16 saves — the most in a World Cup match since 1966, when the statistic was first recorded.
Even though Belgium dominated proceedings, there were many strong performances on the American side. Michael Bradley finally stepped up in Brazil, connecting on 80 of 91 passes and setting up Julian Green's goal. Fullbacks DaMarcus Beasley and DeAndre Yedlin delivered on both sides of the ball. Omar Gonzalez came up with 20 clearances.
Yet Howard still managed to almost single-handedly keep the Americans alive in the round of 16 clash. From his first-minute save on Divock Origi, it became clear the USA would need the veteran to be on top of his game Tuesday.
The final 20 minutes of regulation offered a particularly brutal barage of Belgian chances, and Howard was up to the task every time. A reaction stop on Origi. A lunging foot to stifle Kevin Mirallas. A parry on Eden Hazard. A scrambling denial of Vincent Kompany.
He just kept weathering the storm.
"That's my job," Howard told ESPN postgame. "That's what I signed up to do."
While Howard has inked a contract extension at Everton that will see his English Premier League career continue through the next World Cup cycle, the 35-year-old's U.S. future remains up in the air. With 104 caps to his name and Brad Guzan waiting in the wings, no one would blame Howard for retiring internationally and skipping the transatlantic grind of World Cup qualifying.
If this is it for Howard on the World Cup stage, he's left behind quite the legacy.