Howard's History: Veteran Goalkeeper Set to Mark Another USA Milestone Tuesday

The last time Tim Howard walked on to Jacksonville’s EverBank Field, he was being honored for reaching his milestone 100th cap. That game on June 7, 2014 saw Howard backstop the U.S. to a 2-1 victory against Nigeria, their last match before the team’s trip to Brazil and a monster World Cup performance for the veteran MNT goalkeeper.

Nearly 12 years to the day of his first World Cup Qualifying appearance, when Howard takes the field in Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifying clash against Trinidad & Tobago, he’ll move past former mentor and teammate Kasey Keller as the team’s all-time leader in World Cup Qualifying appearances (32).

“Kasey was a guy who I looked up to,” Howard said when told about the potential milestone. “Before I got to the National Team, I had the good fortune of kind of having Kasey take me under his wing as a young goalkeeper – I was 20 or 21 years old and he was the superstar on the team for a long time. He was great to me when I moved to Europe and he was still with Tottenham.

“I have so much respect for the history and lineage of U.S. goalkeepers, starting with Tony Meola and Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller. That whole line of goalkeepers I’m so proud to be in. Anytime something like this happens where I can surpass them, it’s a dream come true. When I started out I was looking up to these guys, paying for a ticket to watch them play. To be able to call them friends and break some of the records that have stood is pretty cool.”

MNT All-Time Goalkeeping WCQ Appearances

Goalkeeper

WCQ Caps

Years

Kasey Keller

31

1996-2005

Tim Howard

31

2004-present

Brad Friedel

13

1996-2001

Brad Guzan

11

2008-present

The only goalkeeper to appear in four different FIFA World Cup Qualifying cycles for the MNT, Howard will step between the sticks against the Soca Warriors on Tuesday with the U.S. on the cusp of a berth in final round World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018. While the U.S. needs only a draw to guarantee advancement to the Hex, Howard insisted the goal from the start of the camp is camp was to finish the job and come away with two wins, an outcome that would see the United States finish atop its semifinal round qualifying group for the sixth-straight cycle.

“I think coming into this set of games, this training camp, our thought process was always that we were going to need to win two games and certainly get a result in two games,” he said. “It wasn’t like if we win the first one then we can take it easy – nothing has changed.

“Having been through a few of these qualifying campaigns, it’s nice to finish first. I think we have to set that standard for ourselves. We’re always competing with Mexico and Costa Rica and we want that dominance. The only way we can create that measure of success is by finishing first, so yeah, it’s important to us.”

The U.S. has long been dominant over Tuesday’s opponents, holding a 16-2-4 all-time record against Trinidad & Tobago and 11-0-1 advantage on home soil. Still, they did well to hold the U.S. to a 0-0 draw during their first meeting of the round in Port of Spain and have already locked up their berth in the Hex by securing a 2-2 draw against Guatemala on Friday night.

“I think they’ve been playing tough,” said Howard. “They’ve played us down there 0-0, it was a tough game… We know that they’re dangerous – their pace and height and physically they match up with us well which a lot of teams don’t do, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

A hallmark of the MNT’s success in qualifying for seven consecutive World Cups – one of only six teams in the world to accomplish that feat - has been the ability to utilize home-field advantage to pick up points. Holding a perfect 4-0-0 all-time record at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field, Howard thinks the semifinal round finale is important not only to earn first place in Group C, but to continue laying the foundation of the U.S. team’s home dominance for the final round.

“I’ve always said with qualifying, whether it’s the semifinal round or the Hex, winning your home games is paramount. Of course laying that foundation, letting people know that we don’t really get walked on at home, that’s important for us. It’s always playing in our mind, it’s always something that we’re cognizant of and we’re prepared to defend our home turf.”