My brother and I often disagree on quite a bit….and, when we were younger, the two of us had some interesting and let’s say, very physical (and sometimes bloody), ways of addressing these arguments.
Case in point, our summers were spent playing one-on-one basketball after dinner on a hoop tacked to a tree in our driveway. The game would be to 50 by ones and twos and I surmise we finished maybe 3 of these games in the history of the contest. The epic battles typically got rougher and rougher the closer someone got to the 40-point range plunging the game into an eat-my elbow, shoulder charge, take-it-to-the hole at all costs foul and hack affair.
So while my brother I disagreed, vehemently, on how this column should be written, we’ve finally put our differences aside in favor of the greater good and publishing this feature. (Aside: I favored calling out some writers and my brother favoring staying with the main theme.) We agree on one thing.
Tim Howard is a world class goaltender and any goal scored against his team with him in net should not be evaluated in isolation.
So, in writing this column, I am staying on point and I will not egregiously torch writers, message board contributors, and tv commentators or their “commentary” that suggests Tim Howard has something to prove against El Salvador. (You know we’ve all read their commentary and I’ve bookmarked their links.)
Okay! Done, caput. Focused, on-point.
Tim Howard has absolutely zero to prove. He should laugh at that at that notion. And frankly he might be chuckling from the bench on Saturday as it is actually a good game for him to take a well-needed break and have Brad Guzan (who faced the squad in March) deputize.
But let’s dispel three specific criticisms that have been volleyed at the US’s #1 in recent weeks:
Timmy should have saved one, if not both goals against Mexico August 12th.
Good keepers get beat by good shots all the time.
It’s the nature of the sport. And that’s exactly what happened to Howard when Israel Castro released what Peter Vermes aptly called a “boombosa” of a shot to dirty the clean sheet. No shame there.
For the 2nd goal, Howard is getting maligned for not coming out and attempting to snuff the play on the ground.
First, that was pretty much a bang-bang play.
Secondly, and more importantly, you start charging the shot taker and you better get to the ground real quick while moving forward (ever try to do that?) because the offender can just punch a grounder into the goal.
Lifting that ball from the angle that Miguel Sabah did was the harder shot–and another good shot. Howard was nary a split second late with his left hand, but he played it right.
Tim Howard leaves his line too early.
There is critical buzz of Howard getting beat, both in the Mexican affair and South African tourney, because he came off his line too early. Specifically, this criticism was levied for both Italian goals in the group stage and the first goal in Mexico.
Howard is not the most lankiest of keepers and this is most probably why he departs his line to cut the angle on balls and plays he would normally not get to. I would wager that this strategy probably regularly saves more goals than lets them in.
Given the somewhat leaky defenses of both Everton early last year and to-date this year as well as the USMNT in the Confederation’s Cup, coupled with the U.S.’s challenges with corners and through balls, Howard is probably now even predisposed to coming off his line more, and comfortable doing it, because he was forced to.
Ironically, this past Sunday against Wigan (as well as the 2nd goal above), Howard stayed on his line trusting his defenders to make a play. Didn’t happen. In fact, if you can see the Wigan goal against Howard, it was just atrocious. An unmarked Wigan defensemen skirting in behind Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert with neither of them even close. Has to be very frustrating for Big T.
You can’t look at goals in isolation.
On a bigger note, to use an American football analogy, have you ever seen a quarterback get what announcers call “happy feet” in the pocket. This is when their offensive line is challenged by a stellar pass rush. Not wanting to get hit the quarterback shuffles around in the pocket, not setting his feet which typically creates errant passes and turnovers–this behavior is deemed “happy feet”.
Well, that’s the same feeling that a keeper gets when he is getting constantly pummeled with shots. If there is any keeper that should have happy feet for his national team it is unanimously Timmy H.
Howard has not even had the slightest notion of happy feet.
Reversing through the Azteca game (8 shots, 6 on goal) and the onslaughts against both Spain(11, 6) and Brazil (24, 11), Howard was under seige the full 90. That’s not a typo on the Brazil stats. That’s 24 shots, 11 of them on goal. Would you blame Howard if he did get unnerved ? I wouldn’t.
Howard is having a rough start to his Premiership and Europe campaigns for Everton.
We beg to differ–and this one really frustrates me as an Everton fan and someone who reads USMNT commentary on major sites that start with the letter….anyway….
For those not hooked up to the Internet machine or picture tube, Everton’s defense has been horrific out of the gates and sadly that’s a compliment. First, the anchorman, Joleon Lescott, decides he’d rather be up the road at Manchester City and mailed in his one performance against Arsenal in the opener. Result: 6-1 drubbing.
Next Burnley, they of the Manchester win in the campaign already, came in and managed only a single tally on Howard despite a series of open looks immediately in front of the goal, including one that even DaMarcus Beasley would have finished (yikes, low blow, my bad). That game saw the Toffees start midfielder Phil Neville in central defense and the back four thoroughly disorganized throughout–Tony Hibbert is really having a challenging time at RB right now.
Finally Howard got his clean sheet in a Europa league game on Thursday, but it wasn’t easy. Howard watched 20 shots come his way, 9 of them on goal. He followed that up with Everton’s first EPL win against Wigan on Sunday.
If you need evidence that Tim Howard has been a lone bright spot for Everton this season, consider this: Big T has been between the sticks for all of Everton’s games this season, including the Europa League game where many played their reserve keeper. This is David Moyes basically asking Tim to keep the team in games, and in the EPL season, with the mishmash of a defense in front of him.
And Moyes knows it for certain.
Moyes picked up Sylvain Distin from Portsmouth to fill Lescott’s role against Wigan and the rest of the tenure (accurately Distin, at 31, is not the equal of Lescott) and despite Everton’s offensive challenges, Moyes is on the prowl for yet another defender, being linked with Atletico Madrid’s Dutch national John Heitinga. Sound like a manager who has any confidence in his current defense? [Update: Heitinga joined the squad just before the transfer deadline today.]
And finally, let’s take a look at Everton last year. Howard and Everton conceded less than a goal a game (37) which placed TH’s squad in the top 4 for goals conceded for the campaign. Remember, no Vidic, Essien, Garragher, Patrice Evra, etc. etc. Howard and the Toffees then set a club record, and top four finish, for clean sheets (17) despite not getting getting the first shutout until the final weekend of October.
That clean sheet tally does not include his FA Cup shutout of Premiership champs Man United in April.
And all this rounds us back to the positive.
Tim Howard has the respect of both his club managers and teammates and the USMNT staff and teammates. Everton boss David Moyes has gone so far to suggest he’s the best in the world and insists that Howard be mentioned up there with the absolute best citing rival Liverpool and the Chelsea Blues keepers.
So, some out there think that Tim Howard can be faulted for some goals, or that he leaves his line to early, TSG says, let’s stop looking in isolation and look at Tim Howard’s overall body of work. There is no debate there.