Everton's Tim Howard

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Earlier this week, it was announced that U.S. legend Tim Howard was finally finishing his European career and moving back stateside. After 13 years in the Premier League (ten of those with Everton) the goalkeeper will join the Colorado Rapids in July. The 37-year-old has had arguably the best career for an American overseas, but it was definitely time for him to come back home.

This season, it was clear that Howard wasn’t the formidable keeper that he once was. It was a rare occasion when the American kept a clean sheet in the league and prolific matches from Stoke City (four goals against), Bournemouth, Manchester United, Leicester City and Chelsea (three goals against in all of those matches) highlighted the drop in his skill from years past. This disappointing run of games was capped off by Roberto Martinez confirming to the media that the American was no longer his first choice keeper after nine seasons of an unbelievable stranglehold on the position.

Despite his questionable/unreliable form in between the pipes this season, Howard, who has racked up over 100 appearances for the U.S. National Team, is still seen as a star back here in the states. Fans remember the amazing performances that he had for the Stars and Stripes, like his 15-save performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. For some, Howard is still good enough to be the starter for the national team in this summer’s Copa América Centenario.

While his international future is unclear at the moment, there is no question that Howard will be the starter for Colorado when he arrives midseason. This means that he will once again have consistent playing time, and more importantly, a consistent opportunity to show Jürgen Klinsmann that he still has what it takes to compete at the international level. In an interview the keeper did during the current USMNT training camp, he said, “For me, it was an opportunity Colorado offered that I just couldn’t pass up. You know, it gives me a chance to be in the shop window before the next World Cup.”

Tim Howard vs. Belgium

Howard will not only be one of the biggest additions throughout Major League Soccer, it could also be argued that he will be the biggest addition in the Rapid’s 21-year existence. With the star power that he brings to the league and to the organization, he’s also going to be commanding a rather hefty wage as well. According to Alexi Lalas, that paycheck is going to come out to more than $2 million per season for 3.5 years. That means that Colorado, owned by Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke, will be paying a 40-year-old player one of the highest salaries in the league in the near future.

This price tag has drawn criticism from some in the media, and from some fans, as well. For a team that has struggled in recent years to even be competitive, is it really smart to use such a large chunk of already limited salary space on one aging veteran? In my opinion, no. Last season, the Rapids’ biggest problem wasn’t in defense, but in attack. Over 34 games, the club scored just 33 times. They were shutout 12 times that season and finished with the worst offensive record in the entire league.

Right now, things aren’t looking much better in terms of offensive production. Through three games, the club has scored just twice. The Rapids lack a consistent goal scoring threat and only one player in the last four seasons has scored more than nine goals (Deshorn Brown, who left the club at the start of last season). So while Howard may solidify an average backline, you can’t win games if you can’t score goals.

Even if there’s some debate over the results Howard can help on the pitch, there’s no doubt that he will help bring people to the stadium. Last season, the Rapids had the worst average attendance in the league. While the stadium holds 18,000 people, only 15,600 typically showed up to actually watch a game. The name power that Howard brings to the club, even if he is past his prime, should be enough to boost ticket sales in the short run, but if the team continues to struggle, it will be difficult to retain a solid fan base at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (that doesn’t really roll off the tongue too easily).

Regardless of how much he has left in the tank, I’m still excited to see him play stateside. Even though the MLS can’t offer the same type of competition that Howard faced in the Premier League, I think that it’s improved enough since his departure in 2003 to test him on a consistent basis. The league now boasts the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Clint Dempsey, Robbie Keane and David Villa in its attacking ranks, and Howard will be in for a rude awakening if he expects an easy time in Colorado.


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