FOX Soccer Exclusive
Tim Howard eyes future MLS return
Tim Howard isn’t exactly ready to retire any time soon, but the 33-year-old US national team star is already thinking about what awaits him when he chooses to hang up the goalkeeper gloves for the final time.
|1979||Born, March 1979, North Brunswick, New Jersey.|
|1998||Joins MetroStars from North Jersey Imperials.|
|2001||Becomes the youngest goalkeeper, at the age of 22, to win the MLS goalkeeper of the year award.|
|2003||Joins Manchester United for $4million, but makes just 45 appearances in his four seasons at Old Trafford|
|2004||Wins the FA Cup with Manchester United following a 3-0 win against Millwall.|
|2006||In May, Howard joins Everton on loan for the whole of the 2006-7 season. Also makes his USA debut against Ecuador.|
|2007||Howard joins Everton on a permanent deal in February 2007 for a fee believed to be around £3million.|
|2009||In goal for Everton's 2-1 League Cup final defeat to Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.|
|2010||Produced a man-of-the-match performance in the United States' 1-1 draw against England in the group stages of the World Cup in Germany.|
|2012||Becomes the fourth Premier League goalkeeper in history to score when his goal-kick bounces over Bolton's Adam Bogdan.|
|2012||Signs a new four-year contract in March which will keep him at Goodison Park until 2016.|
Does he want to coach? Definitely not. What the Everton goalkeeper envisions is returning to the United States, to the league where his career began, and trading in his place in the net for a place in the board room.
"I want to work in the front office of an MLS team," Howard told FOX Soccer in a recent in-depth interview.
"I want to maybe work for the league. I think as our generation has gone abroad and come back, particularly this generation, with players who have played at big clubs, I feel like we have a lot to offer. I also realize there’s a learning curve. I know I can’t go from wearing the gloves one day, and being in a management role the next day.
"There has to be a process that I go through that’s working for an MLS club, or working for MLS itself, but that’s something I’d like to do long term."
Howard isn’t just looking to work within MLS. He sounds more eager than ever to close out his playing career in MLS as well. For several years, Howard remained non-committal about returning to Major League Soccer, but the league’s impressive growth and continued success has made coming back a possibility.
"It’s a really good league, and I just think MLS offers a lot of things," Howard said. "It offers passionate fans, some really good stadiums, and the lure of bringing the likes of [David] Beckham, [Thierry] Henry and [Rafael] Marquez.
"There’s been some fun fans that I’ve watched over the years and I’ve had the chance to talk to people in MLS about the league and I just think there’s so many positives to coming back to MLS and playing.
"Seeing all those things, and everything that’s happened in just ten years is crazy," Howard said. "You look at Seattle, with the fans and the passion and the three Open Cups. It’s pretty amazing."
"Seeing Kasey [Keller], who was my mentor, have so much success and go to a franchise that is so put together, makes me think there is a lot to offer."
Don’t be misled though. Howard is far from done with his career in Europe. He just signed a contract extension with Everton that will run into 2016, when Howard will be 37-years-old. He is coming off of one of his best seasons in the Barclays Premier League, drawing considerable praise from US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has called Howard one of the top five goalkeepers in the world.
Klinsmann has also added Howard to the list of US national team players he believes should be making a move to a bigger club, a Champions League club. Howard experienced Champions League soccer with Manchester United, and acknowledges that playing at that level is a goal for any player. Yet, Howard has found more importance in developing roots at Everton, where he has become one of the club’s leaders and most beloved players.
"I believe in the club and think we can do great things," Howard said. "As for the Champions League, no one can tell the future. When you start talking about checking off the boxes that make sense, is Champions League one of them? Sure, but it’s one of many things that I have to take into consideration when looking at my future.
"I can tell you this. There are certain people who I know who have made the switch to a certain club just to play Champions League, and they get bombed out of the Champions League," Howard said. “Or they sign a four-year contract and they only play Champions League one year, and then they’re miserable at their club and they’re back to square one."
Everton’s future seemed to be in some doubt this summer as manager David Moyes became the subject of speculation that bigger clubs were interested in luring him away from the Liverpool club.
"If David Moyes were to leave I think it would change the dynamic of the club because he’s become a figurehead," Howard said. "When you’re talking about Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes is in that conversation, they have become the figureheads of their clubs. Everything runs through them.
"If he were to leave, the club would have to make a massive decision that the next person hired would have to be so perfect,” Howard said. “Times would change, depending on which players were still around, but it’s all hypothetical. With a lot of these situations it’s hard to speak realistically because you don’t know what would happen - what the ramifications would be and what the ripple effects would be of such a powerful manager leaving.”
Moyes isn’t the only coach Howard has praise for these days. He has become a fan of Klinsmann, citing the US coach’s unconventional style with helping rejuvenate the national team.
"It’s been good, it’s been different. It’s been eye-opening," Howard said of Klinsmann’s first year as US head coach. "He’s introduced so many new ideas. Whether it be yoga, nutrition, formations, how to play. Just different things. It’s been good at 33 to have that newness, that freshness.
"How progressive he was really surprised me," Howard said. "For him there’s so many facets to a team. It’s not just 11 players and you run them and give them a ball. There’s the nutrition, the mental side, the team bonding. There are all sorts of things,
“It surprised me that he wasn’t like every other coach, but it’s been a really good surprise.”
As impressive a list of coaches as Howard has played for, he is quick to point out that he has zero interest in ever being a coach.
“Oh God, no,” Howard said. “I think I have some ideas on coaching, but listen, coaches work harder than players. The hours they put in, the headaches that they have. That’s the one thing I’ve never liked about coaching. They have all the emotion, passion and preparation without actually getting to be able to dictate what happens.
“Yes, of course there’s Xs and Os, but the bottom line is when the ball’s in front of the goal you can’t kick it. You have to have someone else kick it.”
Howard will return to action with the national team in August, when the United States takes on archrival Mexico. Howard has been on the winning end and losing end of that fierce rivalry.
Howard said: “I said they’ve got some kids that, when they come into their own, (Mexico) is going to have everything we can handle, and that’s come to fruition. That’s great for them and good for the rivalry.
“As far as the last five or seven years goes, we dominated them, and prior to that they dominated us,” Howard said. “The pendulum has started to swing a little bit back toward them, but that just puts pressure on us to take back what we think is ours.
“They want to dominate the region, and we dominate the region. As good as their team is right now, we’re not ready to just roll over. It’s just another good challenge for us, to try and match them and beat them.”
If the United States is going to challenge Mexico for the top spot in CONCACAF in the coming years, Howard is going to be instrumental in that battle. He remains the United States’ top goalkeeper, and is playing at such a high level that it isn’t a stretch to believe he will remain the national team starter for years to come.
Just how many years could come down to how long Howard wants to keep going. He has a goal of completing ten years at Everton, and wants to play a few years in MLS. Will he play as long as the likes of Kasey Keller, who retired at 43, or Brad Friedel, who is still playing well in the Premier League at age 41?
“I don’t think I want to play that long,” Howard said. “My current contract will take me to the age of 37, which will be ten years at Everton, and that would be a time when I would certainly like to think about finishing up. Maybe play a couple more years, but certainly before the age of 40 I’d like to be in a suit doing something else.
“I’m not ready to retire any time soon, but I can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
That end is still a few years away though. There will still be time for Howard to play in at least one more World Cup in 2014, time to put more polish on an outstanding career at Everton, and time to return to MLS and make his mark on the field or board room.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.