And so it ends. The U.S. Men’s National Team has been eliminated from the 2014 World Cup at the hands of Belgium, and the dream run is over. However, despite the heartbreak of an extra time defeat, Americans need not hang their heads, and goalkeeper Tim Howard is a big reason why.
Team USA wasn’t supposed to even get out of the “Group of Death.” Coach Juergen Klinsmann was a controversial figure, especially when he made the decision to leave off veteran star Landon Donovan. Over these past two weeks, though, Howard has been the heart and soul of the squad, lifting his teammates with dramatic saves and becoming a beacon for fans across the country.
After 12 years on the national team, Howard’s performance on Tuesday evening was one of those games that will be talked about for years. His 16 saves on 38 shots were a record, the most in any single World Cup game in 50 years. It was nearly entirely because of him that the United States even made it to extra time, as the offense lagged behind the Belgian side for almost the entirety of regulation.
When we see the highlights of this game, though, we’ll also see the two shots that found the net behind him. Such is the life of a keeper, but it’s important that Howard gets the recognition he so richly deserves.
Now, of course, it’s back to his normal life as Everton‘s keeper. American attention on soccer will soon return to relatively apathetic levels, as NBA free agency has begun and NFL minicamps are just around the corner. Howard will be 39 by the next World Cup and will likely not be part of the squad, but perhaps his lasting impression on the world’s stage will inspire the next American star, watching right now and saying one more time, “I believe that we will win.”