COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Many doubted the idea of signing a goalkeeper to a Designated Player contract back in January when the news first broke that Tim Howard might be set to join the Colorado Rapids.
But Howard left little doubt in his performance in the Rapids’ Western Conference Semifinal victory on Sunday; a performance where the Rapids ‘keeper came up big with two saves in a penalty shootout, propelling Colorado to the next round of the playoffs in their 3-1 penalty win.
“I think it extends beyond the importance in the shootout,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni responded when asked if the signing of Howard was money well spent. “It’s been really what he’s brought to the group from a leadership perspective. For me, he’s still one of the best ‘keepers in the world.”
The Rapids goalkeeper says he’s felt the pressure since putting pen to ink with Colorado.
“I think you have two types of DPs,” Howard explained. “You have the guys that come here to collect checks, and there’s been a lot of them. And I think you have a bunch of guys who are whole-hearted, who want to put the team on their back and feel a part of the organization. That’s where I am, to be honest. It keeps me awake at night.”
That attitude from Howard hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Rapids head coach.
“He’s just a real team presence, team guy, that wants to win more than anything else,” Mastroeni added. “That’s the kind of people that we want at this club. People who are willing to give up themselves for the greater good. He brings a lot more than his performance on the field. What he exudes as a human being has been transformational to the group.”
The difference in experience between Howard and the younger LA Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who only became a full-time starter in 2016, was a factor that LA manager Bruce Arena tipped his hat to in Sunday’s outcome.
“Obviously they have a very experienced goalkeeper,” Arena said. “Maybe it was the difference today. Maybe it was a good investment bringing Tim Howard here. He saved two of them, right?”
Despite the credit thrown his way, Howard shrugged his shoulders and chocked it up to chance.
“I think it’s a lot of luck,” He said. “Other teams use technology, we don’t. Penalties after 120 mins are different than penalties after the game. Guys are tired and it’s hard to get power. It’s good to be lucky.”
Nevertheless, Howard remains adamant that goalkeepers are a good monetary investment.
“I think it’s a stupid thing that this league doesn’t invest in goalkeepers,” Howard continued. “Everywhere else in the world that you go, teams are deftly afraid to bring goalkeepers through their ranks because the stakes are too high. They go pay 7 million, 10 million, 15 million for a goalkeeper. I’m excited that Kroenke Sports decided it was a good idea and hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
Yet despite his success this season in facing penalties, Howard isn’t quick to jump to another opportunity in these playoffs.
“I think we’ve had way too much training in penalties this season,” he said. “Hopefully we don’t face any more.”