COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Secretary of Defense is set to take up a new post in Colorado.
That's just one of the nicknames earned in recent years by US national team star goalkeeper Tim Howard, who will be making his return to MLS after months of anticipation and speculation. The Colorado Rapids officially announced the signing on Sunday morning.
“I’m headed out to Colorado, which is incredibly exciting for me,” he said in a media conference call on Sunday. “It’s a new chapter that I’m looking forward to for many different reasons.
“When I spoke to Pablo [Mastroeni, Rapids head coach], we discussed the challenges that lie ahead. We discussed how to push this franchise forward and I’m excited about this challenge. It’s a huge challenge for everyone involved. Finding somewhere to spend the rest of my career was one of the major factors.”
In his return to MLS, Howard joins an MLS team which he faced in his debut as a pro at the age of 19. Now, after 13 years in England, including 10 with Everton in the English Premier League, he represents the latest addition in an influx of stars making the jump from European leagues to MLS. Howard believes that migration will continue, and with his help, the Rapids could become a preferred destination.
“I’ll be flying the flag and be hoping to bring even more top players to [Denver],” he said. “I think MLS does a great job of selling itself. I’ll do my part, but all the people in the UK that I’ve spoken to are always asking about MLS. They seem very interested at the prospect of playing here.”
Howard is the second US international the Rapids have acquired this month since landing Jermaine Jones from the New England Revolution last week in a sign-and-trade deal. The pair are the centerpieces of Colorado’s most recent roster overhaul, which has also included the arrival of attacking talents Shkëlzen Gashi from FC Basel and Marco Pappa from the Seattle Sounders.
Signing a goalkeeper as a Designated Player is not exactly a conventional practice among MLS clubs, especially given the limit of three DP slots clubs can fill on their roster. But Howard is surprised it doesn't happen more often.
“I think teams have been reluctant to sign goalkeepers [as Designated Players]. I’m not 100 percent sure why,” Howard commented. “Across Europe and European football, when you name the top teams, they’ve got a top goalkeeper. I think it’s an important position, clearly.”
And Howard is out to prove it. Despite falling out of the starting lineup at Everton, he says he's fitter and fresher than ever. He continues to maintain a strict training and diet regimen while employing a personal trainer, an acupuncturist and a physical therapist.
“I feel fresher now because I’ve had a month-and-a-half break,” he explained. “I feel good, my body is great. I stay in top physical condition. I’m excited to get back on the field.
“My body fat is at 6.9 percent and I’m at 200 pounds,” he continued. “For 37, I’m not doing too bad. For 22 I wouldn’t be doing too bad.”
The Rapids will need Howard at his best in order to reach their goal of making the postseason after two straight years of missing the playoffs, because while his signing may boost the club's profile and its ability to lure new talent, Howard knows that it's all about results on the field.
“I think what Colorado cares about is winning,” Howard said. “To put my face on a billboard, that doesn’t do a whole lot. Winning takes care of everything.”