SANDY, Utah – Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard is in the midst of an eight-game winless streak with his club, but now rejoins a US national team coming off a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup victory and into the final months of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The fates of his club and country couldn’t be more different, but he’s glad the familiarity of the national team lies ahead.
“I always look forward to going to the national team, no matter the circumstances,” Howard said. “It’s a different team. It’s a different set of priorities and goals.”
However, those priorities don’t change much about how he goes about his job, even at this stage of the MLS season and at this point in qualifying.
“I do what I can. I make the saves I can make. I try and organize, try and lead and I feel like I have been doing that,” Howard said.
And although the national team has undergone a coaching change and a tough start to the final, hexagonal round of qualifying, overall Howard says the demands of qualifying haven't changed much.
“It’s been exactly the same. There have been some bumps in the road,” Howard said. “It’s tough to win games away from home. We have gotten the right results for the most part at home and we’re in a really good position to qualify.”
These next two games will be important for the US to solidify their qualifying position, and maybe even set up clinching passage to an eighth consecutive World Cup with a match to spare.
“We know Mexico can probably qualify with a win in this next game, but we need to beat Costa Rica at home, nothing changes there," Howard said. “Then we need to go down to Honduras and dig in and get a result. We think we can win down there. Hopefully, if everything goes well we can go to Orlando and seal it and if not we go to Trinidad.”
Domestically, Howard has been a bright spot in the Rapids' recent tough run, even during Colorado’s 4-1 loss on Saturday to rival Real Salt Lake.
“He made two to three unbelievable saves,” Colorado interim head coach Steve Cooke said. “In any generation, he’s a fantastic player. I hope everywhere he goes people embrace him.”
And even though Howard's first full season with the Rapids hasn't gone to plan, Cooke said he hopes those supporters who get the chance to watch him understand just the caliber of player they're seeing.
“People like him aren’t going to come around too often for any country,” Cooke said. “He’s not only the greatest goalkeeper that has ever been produced in this country, but he’s the greatest most countries have produced as well.
“I think he’s got two to three great years left in him yet and he has a wonderful opportunity to take the US to the World Cup and do well there as well.”