Tim Howard wasn't always an American soccer household name.
Once upon a time, he wasn't always the goalkeeper that has represented the United States in three World Cups. He wasn't always the goalkeeper that made sixteen saves against Belgium, set a new world record, and turned in an incredible performance that captured America.
He wasn't always the goalkeeper that has enjoyed a dozen successful years playing European soccer, all while coming up huge and making clutch saves or even scoring a goal.
Once upon a time, Tim Howard was a member of the MetroStars.
It feels like so long ago that his presence graced the turf at Giants Stadium. Howard's career has risen astronomically since those days. Howard first started out playing as a midfielder throughout high school until his goalkeeping talents were recognized by former U.S. goalkeeping coach Tim Mulqueen. After playing a few games for the North Jersey Imperials of the now-defunct USISL, Howard was brought up to the then NY/NJ MetroStars at age 19, where Mulqueen was the goalkeeping coach.
The newly signed keeper made his first start on August 18th, 1998 against the Colorado Rapids. The Jersey native emerged victorious in his first bout, making five saves in a 4-1 victory. The next year, Howard only played nine games in both 1999 & 2000, and posted a 1.57 & 1.58 GAA respectively. Howard greatly impressed in 2001 with a 13-10-3 record along with 4 shutouts, in a season that would see him win MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
It wasn't solely Tim's performances on the field that made him stand out from the pack. His fantastic attitude and dedication to various charities and to the community made him not only a stellar goalkeeper, but a great man, and as such, he was awarded the 2001 MLS Humanitarian of the Year Award. Howard's own battles with Tourette's syndrome and OCD inspired him to help others with similar symptoms, and was even appointed to the Board of Directors of the Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey in 2001.
In 2002, Howard made 140 saves in 27 appearances, recording four shutouts. The way Howard could stop a ball that looked destined for the top net or smother a counter-attack that seemed to be a sure-fire goal was incredible. Everyone around the league could see that this kid from New Jersey was something special, and it wasn't long before he attracted attention from overseas.
Manchester United paid $4 million in order to acquire Howard halfway through the 2003 MLS season. Swapping the old Giants Stadium for Old Trafford, Howard was off to the English Premier League, and he has flourished since. Although his career as a Red Devil was short lived, Tim found a new home at Goodison Park playing for Everton in 2007 and hasn't looked back since.
While the world watched Howard make fifteen saves against Belgium last summer, we were incredibly proud to call him a MetroStar for life.