COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The long wait is over. Tim Howard has finally joined the Colorado Rapids.
“It’s a new chapter, it’s a new challenge, it’s something I’m hungry for here,” Howard told reporters during an introductory press conference on Tuesday. “I’m excited to play. It can’t come soon enough.”
The 37-year-old goalkeeper, whose been capped over 100 times as a member of the US national team, was officially unveiled as a member of the Rapids, culminating a months’ long process which completed his transfer from English Premier League club Everton FC after he had signed with Colorado on March 20. He is expected to make his Rapids debut on Monday, July 4, at home against the Portland Timbers (9:00PM ET, streamed live on MLSsoccer.com).
Howard’s unveiling was a moment of contentment for Rapids president Tim Hinchey, VP of soccer operations Paul Bravo and alternate governor Josh Kroenke, members of the team’s front office staff who pulled out all the stops in recruiting Howard, including sleeping in airports.
“We believe that we are an emerging club in this league,” Bravo said. “This is just a small step. The relief that we felt seeing Tim Howard training with the team. Seeing him putting on the jersey was relief, but certainly puts things in perspective from my end, having been around this club for a long time. It puts us in the new era that is MLS.”
Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni called Howard a “midseason gift” and a “catalyst” for his team to continue the run of form Colorado has begun the season with, which has them atop the Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield standings.
“In professional sports, you start a certain way and you get to the point and you feel like expectations are the same; you’ve got to keep winning,” Mastroeni explained. “But you can’t keep doing it from the same place, there’s got to be some type of ignition.”
He’s found that igniting force in Howard.
“Now we have a guy that’s proven, a guy that’s an outstanding character, holds himself to the highest standard that you can in football,” Mastroeni continued. “[Howard] embodies everything that we want at this club from a drive perspective, from a 'put your arm around a young guy' perspective. A guy that’s going to push this group to where we want to go, which is to the playoffs, and beyond this year.”
Likewise, Howard alluded to the fact that Mastroeni, his former USMNT teammate, is the Rapids' coach, was a key component in his decision to sign with Colorado.
“Pablo is a dear friend of mine and now he’s a head coach. When we played together from 2002-2009 I didn’t always listen, but I promise I’ll be on my best behavior now,” Howard said. “Pablo is a warrior. He was a guy who on countless occasions I stood in the tunnel with.”
Despite the Rapids’ back-to-back finishes at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2014 and 2015, Howard was convinced by the Rapids’ braintrust’s plans for improvement; plans which he wanted to be a part of. The Rapids have re-paid that trust so far, as they currently sit atop the Supporters' Shield standings, having accrued 32 points in their first 16 games.
“Everyone has bought into this project. When you don’t get the results in the last couple of years, of course it’s easy to downplay,” Howard said. “I had great conversations with [Hinchey, Bravo and Mastroeni]. It was about that faith. I cared about the people who were going to be around me and there was that trust. There were things that felt right, it felt genuine.”
With all of the formalities out of the way, Howard is now raring to go for the next step in his transition: Monday's match.
“This will ultimately be an 18-month season for me,” he said. “Pablo and I spoke quite a lot over the last couple of weeks and I didn’t really want a vacation. I just want to get out there. It’s what I do, it’s where I’m happiest. The sooner I can get on the field, the better.”