Howard first represented the United States national team in 2002 and was an unused substitute for the 2006 World Cup. He later established himself as first-choice and started all of the United States’ games at the 2010 World Cup as they reached the Round of 16.
He has a reputation for playing through the pain barrier. In September 2007 he accepted a call-up from the United States for a friendly against Brazil, and after an hour of the game his finger was dislocated in a collision. In March 2013, during an FA Cup game against Oldham Athletic he broke two bones in his back. In both incidents, he continued playing until the final whistle.
Howard was born in North Brunswick, New Jersey, to Matthew Howard – an African American, and Esther Howard (née Fekete), a native of Hungary. His parents divorced when he was three years old, and Howard lived with his mother, a project manager for a cosmetics distributor. His father, a long-distance truck driver for a health care firm, nonetheless maintained a presence in his life. His father was determined to get Howard and his brother, Chris, involved in sports. Before the two could walk, he bought them equipment for various sports to see which games they preferred. Tim showed a preference for basketball and soccer.
In high school, Howard proved a star not only in soccer as a midfielder, but also on the basketball court, where he averaged 15 points per game and helped bring his team to the state finals in his senior year. However his talent and abilities as a soccer player were far more impressive. Despite his position on his high school team, Howard was a far better goalkeeper than he was a midfielder. Howard spent the first years of high school attending Montclair Kimberley Academy, a small private school in Montclair, New Jersey. Howard left MKA in his junior year to go back to North Brunswick where he grew up, and graduated from North Brunswick Township High School. By the age of fifteen he began playing in goal for U.S. youth national teams. He made his international debut against Honduras on the U-17 squad. In 1997 Mulqueen became the coach of the North Jersey Imperials, a team in the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL), and served as the goalkeeping coach for Major League Soccer‘s MetroStars; he immediately considered Howard for a position on the Imperials. In May of that year, a month before graduating from high school, Howard played for the Imperials in his first professional game.
After only six appearances with the USISL’s North Jersey Imperials, Tim Mulqueen, who at the time was the New York/New Jersey MetroStar’s goalkeeper coach, brought Howard up from the Imperials to the MetroStars.
Howard was victorious in his MLS debut with the MetroStars on August 18, 1998, making five saves in a 4–1 win over Colorado at Giants Stadium (his only appearance of the year). He later played in one game with the Nike Project-40 Team, a 3–1 win over the Staten Island Vipers at Giants Stadium on May 6, 1998.
With the MetroStars during the 1999 MLS season, he made eight starts in nine contests. Howard had a 1.58 GAA and won just one match in a season in which the Metros won just seven games. He also spent most of the international season with the U.S. Under-20 MNT, leaving the club to compete in the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria in April and the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in July.
Howard posted a 5–2–2 record with a 1.59 GAA in 2000, splitting time between the MetroStars and the U.S. Olympic Team, also winning all three of his U.S. Open Cup starts that season.
In 2001, he became the youngest player to win the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, recording four shutouts and a league-leading 146 saves, and was named to the MLS All-Star Team. Howard played every minute of every MetroStars game, and finished the year with a 1.33 GAA, four shutouts and a 13–10–3 record. He also received the MLS Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Howard played in 27 of 28 regular season games in 2002 for the MetroStars, recording four shutouts.
Before leaving the MetroStars in 2003, he appeared in thirteen games and had three clean sheets as the club challenged for first place during the season’s first half.
Manchester United paid a $4 million transfer fee to sign Howard in the middle of the 2003 MLS season, and he replaced Fabien Barthez as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. He started off very well at Manchester United, saving the decisive penalty in the Community Shield against Arsenal. Other notable performances followed, including Bolton Wanderers and a home FA Cup tie victory over Manchester City. However, in March 2004, Howard’s poor parry handed a last minute goal to FC Porto, eliminating United from the UEFA Champions League. The error appeared to shatter Howard’s confidence and he was replaced by Roy Carroll. After a period of rest, Howard reclaimed his starting position ahead of Carroll for the 2004 FA Cup Final, picking up a winner’s medal. He was the second American player to collect a winner’s medal in the FA Cup, after Julian Sturgis of Wanderers F.C. in the 1873 final. Howard was also named in the PFA Best XI in his first season at Manchester United.
In his second season with Manchester United, he started poorly, making several errors and was dropped again for Carroll. After Carroll made several errors as well, Howard forced his way back in but his performances were unconvincing, leading to Carroll regaining his place again, playing in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
At the end of the 2004–05 season, Howard signed a new contract, which was to run until 2009. In the summer of 2005, Manchester United released both of his competitors for the goalkeeper position — Ricardo López Felipe and Carroll. However, they also bought experienced Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar soon after. An uncharacteristically outspoken Howard fumed in an interview that he would not have signed the new contract had he known Van der Sar was on his way to United (Van der Sar replaced Howard as first choice goalkeeper). He felt that he had done enough to remain as the first choice goalkeeper at the club.
Howard joined Everton on loan for the 2006–07 season and made his debut for the club against Watford on the opening day of the season. He signed a permanent deal with the club in February 2007 for a fee reported to be worth around £3 million.
In April 2007, Everton faced Manchester United at Goodison Park. Howard did not participate in the game, and there was some speculation that this came from a clause in his loan contract, even though a permanent deal had since been agreed. The Football Association investigated the allegation but found that neither Manchester United nor Everton had broken any rules regarding Howard’s transfer and that both clubs had confirmed that Everton had been free to play Howard against Manchester United if they had wished to do so. He made his 100th appearance for Everton against West Ham United, on November 8, 2008. On April 19, 2009, in the FA Cup semi final, he saved two penalties against his former club Manchester United in a penalty shoot-out to send Everton to the final against Chelsea. During the 2008–09 season Howard set the club record for most league match clean sheets in a season. Howard started the 2009–10 season with four consecutive clean sheets, including away to Portsmouth where he helped his team secure a 1–0 win and claimed the Man of the Match award for his performance. Howard captained Everton for the first time in a 3–3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 12, 2009.
During the 2011–12 season, Howard scored his first goal in professional football in a 2–1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers. His wind-assisted 102-yard clearance at Goodison Park made him only the fourth goalkeeper to score in a Premier League match since its formation in 1992. He described his goal as “cruel” and refused to celebrate out of sympathy for his beaten opposite number, Ádám Bogdán.
On March 2012 Howard agreed a new contract to keep him at the club until the summer of 2016. On 2 March 2013, Howard’s run of 210 consecutive Premier League appearances dating back to September 2007 came to an end as he missed a game against Reading with a finger injury. He was two games short of equalling Neville Southall’s club record. In May, Howard kept his 100th clean sheet for Everton in a 0–0 draw against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
He was the starting goalkeeper for the 2009 Confederations Cup, including the semifinal in which the U.S. upset Spain, then the number one-ranked team in the world. Howard’s eight saves earned him his first clean sheet of the tournament and the first shutout of the Spanish side since 2007. Following the United States’ second place finish in the tournament, Howard was awarded the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper.
Howard was the starting goalkeeper for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in South Africa, and turned in a Man of the Match performance against England in his first World Cup appearance. Howard’s distribution to Landon Donovan led to the game-winning goal of the last first round game against Algeria, giving the US passage into the round of 16. He conceded two goals when United States lost their round of 16 game against Ghana.
After the 2011 Gold Cup Final, Howard made a controversial statement regarding the post-match ceremony. The trophy presentation was conducted entirely in Spanish, despite the tournament being held in the United States. Howard went on to say that it was a “disgrace” and commented further that if the final had been in Mexico City and the United States had won, the ceremony would not have been made in English.
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