Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who led Team USA into the second round of two consecutive World Cups for the first time in history, announced he will suspend his international career for at least a year.
The 35-year-old Howard, who holds the U.S. record for goalkeepers in appearances (104) and victories (55), has played 13 years for Team USA, including the last seven as the starter. He was a reserve goalkeeper at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, before becoming the No. 1 at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann supported Howard’s decision to not be considered again for the national team until September 2015.
|Tim Howard warms up in the rain prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between the U.S and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.|
“Even if he never plays another game, he’ll still go down as one of the greatest goalkeepers in U.S. national team history,” said ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas, who played for Team USA as a defender and represented the United States at the Olympic Games. “But a lot can change in a year, and I think he’s okay with that.”
In a statement released Thursday by U.S. Soccer, Howard, who began his eighth season for Everton in the English Premier League Saturday, said the decision is driven by a desire to spend more time with his children.
"Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time," he said.
Howard has two children, Jacob, 8, and Ali, 7, both of whom live with his ex-wife in the United States.
Such a leave of absence would have been unheard of for U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame member John Harkes, former Team USA captain and teammate of Lalas who hosts the “Counterattack” soccer talk show on SiriusXM radio.
“Back in our day, this wouldn’t have even been considered – I kind of wish it was,” said Harkes, who played in the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, as well as the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. “And playing in the EPL, I never had summer off, maybe 10 days with the family and then it was back to the club. Now, it’s a very logical way.”
Howard gained wide acclaim during the World Cup this past summer in Brazil, particularly his 16-save performance in a 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium in the second round. His 34 shutouts is second only to Kasey Keller’s 47 in Team USA history. Howard was dubbed “Captain America” and became a social media sensation as fans superimposed his photo into a variety of images with the hashtag #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave. Howard jokingly became the country’s next secretary of defense and did everything from saving the Titanic to blocking Michael Jordan’s shots on the basketball court.
The announcement leaves Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan, Team USA’s starting goalkeeper at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, as the heir apparent along with Real Salt Lake netminder Nick Rimando, both of whom were Howard’s backups at the 2014 World Cup.
Team USA’s next game will be a friendly Sept. 3 against the Czech Republic in Prague. Team USA will play its first game on U.S. soil since the World Cup preparation games on Oct. 10 against Ecuador in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Here’s a look at Tim Howard’s Career Timeline
Aug. 18, 1998
Makes professional debut with New York-New Jersey MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) in 4-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids.
|Tim Howard of the New Jersey/New York MetroStars looks on during the game against the Tampa Bay Mutiny at the Giants Stadium on April 22, 2001 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.|
Becomes youngest player, at 22, to be selected MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
March 10, 2002
Makes Team USA debut, earning shutout in 1-0 victory against Ecuador in Birmingham, Alabama.
July 14, 2003
Transfers from New York-New Jersey MetroStars to Manchester United of EPL for $3.6 million.
Sept. 4, 2004
Earns shutout in World Cup qualifying debut against El Salvador, 2-0, in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
May 2, 2006
Earns spot on first World Cup team. Serves as backup to Kasey Keller.May 9, 2006
Heads to Everton after Manchester United loan. Transfer becomes permanent on Feb. 14, 2007.
June 24, 2007
Makes dramatic 89th-minute save on Adolfo Bautista to preserve 1-0 victory against Mexico in CONCACAF Gold Cup final, giving Team USA the title. Starts four matches in Gold Cup to assume starter’s job from Kasey Keller.June 15-28, 2009
Becomes Golden Gloves winner at FIFA Confederations Cup for best goalkeeper, and had an eight-save performance against Spain in semifinals.
June 12, 2010
|Tim Howard celebrates his team's 2-0 win over Mexico as he leaves the field at Columbus Crew Stadium on Sept. 10, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.|
Saves six shots to earn Man of the Match honors in World Cup debut versus England, a 1-1 draw in Rustenburg, South Africa.
June 4, 2011
Gets start for Team USA against world No. 1 Spain.
Feb. 29, 2012
Starts against Italy and records a shutout in the 1-0 win.
Aug. 15, 2012
Records 1-0 shutout and makes late save in Team USA’s first win against Mexico in Azteca Stadium.Sept. 10, 2013
Records 51st victory but, more importantly, gets 2-0 shutout against Mexico that qualifies Team USA for the 2014 World Cup.
|Tim Howard in action during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the U.S. at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.
June 8, 2014
Records 100th cap against Nigeria.
June 16, 2014
Records four saves in Team USA’s World Cup opener and 2-1 victory against Ghana.
July 1, 2014
Makes World Cup record 16 saves in 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium.
Aug. 21, 2014
Announces plan to take a break from international soccer through fall of 2015.