After 13 years as a goalkeeper in the Premier League in the United Kingdom, Tim Howard, the bald and bearded native of North Brunswick, has returned to the United States to play professionally with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
Howard launched his career while in high school in 1995 with the Central Jersey Cosmos. He played briefly for the New Jersey Imperials before debuting in 1998 — at age 19 — with the MetroStars of the MLS. In 2003, he left the MetroStars to sign with Manchester United in England. He moved to Everton in 2007, playing in more than 350 Premier League games.
Now 37, Howard has played in more than 100 games for the U.S. national team, including two World Cups. He is expected to be in goal for the Rapids, one of the top teams in the MLS, when they face the New York City Football Club on July 30 at Yankee Stadium.
New Jersey Monthly: What will your role be in Colorado?
Tim Howard: My goal is simple. I have to face some balls and save a lot of them. As a senior leader, I will be trying to provide leadership. But this is a new group. I also have to earn the right to lead this group–being a mentor on and off the field. It’s something I have done in the past, so it’s not a problem for me.
NJM: Why Colorado, and why come back to the MLS?
TH: Timing. Football is entertainment, and people love to get caught up in that. That’s the beauty of the sport. But the guys who are playing and work in this business, this is our job, our lifestyle, our career. It just felt right. My time at Everton was nothing short of amazing. I loved every minute of it, but it was time to move on.
NJM: What will it be like to play professionally again in the United States?
TH: A lot of people forget because I was in England for so long, but I played five and a half seasons in the MLS. It is exciting to kind of see how the league has grown. And the league has grown so much since I left in 2003. To see the new stadiums and the influx of talented players, the way each team’s fan base has grown and grown and grown, it is impressive. I am looking forward to that.
NJM: What did you miss about playing in the United States?
TH: It’s all one and the same, really. Playing football in Europe, as we know, is second to none, but every time I have played for my country, the fans have been amazing to me. To play in front of the Colorado fans, that’s what I’m looking forward to, to try to win them over.
NJM: What will you miss about playing in Europe?
TH: I won’t miss the rain. But Everton became my home. I have been very open about that. I’ll miss everything affiliated with that club. I had a really good life, great friends, all of that kind of day-to-day things will be sorely missed. But I’ll keep in touch.
NJM: You did commentary on a few Premier League telecasts to the U.S. on the NBC Sports Network recently. Do you plan to continue?
TH: I did broadcasting because it was an opportunity that was given to me. That did not interfere with my number 1 priority, which was my job [with Everton]. I was thankful to NBC for giving me the opportunity. But that, in no way, shape or form, was a transition. I still have three and a half years left in my career, and I am going to make the most of every minute.
NJM: What will it be like to play in the New York area again?
TH: I have a lot of ties to the area. I have great friends there, [so] I’ll have lots of ticket requests. It will be fun. Obviously, it will be business, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since I played in the tristate area, but I have good memories.