The long-time USMNT star says his experiences as a kid helped further his hand-eye coordination
Longtime U.S. national team star Tim Howard says that he believes that American goalkeepers have an early advantage due to the multitude of American sports that require hand-eye coordination.
Howard recently played his final match, ending a career that has seen him feature for the Metrostars, Manchester United, Everton and the Colorado Rapids.
He also earned 121 caps for the USMNT, starring at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Howard, like Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tony Meola before him, proved that American goalkeepers can compete at the top level with any of Europe or South America’s elite, and he says that comes down to the different sports Americans experience as kids.
“Overall, the position of goalkeeper is about being athletic, dexterous and having good hand-to-eye coordination,” Howard told Goal.
“When we grow up in America and play sports as American athletes, as kids, everything about what we do as we grow up playing every sport is our hand-to-eye coordination, whether it’s playing tennis, golf, basketball, American football and baseball.
“A lot of us grow up playing basketball, especially. So, right away, since a young age, we have a little bit of leg up in terms of starting out at the age of four, five and six, playing with our hands. When you go to Europe, they immediately put the ball at your feet! It’s something that helps American goalkeepers as we grow.”
In recent years, goalkeepers have been asked to play with their feet more and more as top clubs all over the world look for their starters to feel comfortable playing out from the back.
Manchester City star Ederson is widely seen as a prime example, as Pep Guardiola has asked his goalkeeper to show comfort with the ball at his feet.
And, while Howard expects that trend to continue, the long-time USMNT star says that a goalkeeper must first prove comfortable making saves and that anything additional is just a bonus.
“There are probably five teams around the world where a goalkeeper can afford to play like an outfield player. But the goalkeepers better not get too far away from saving the ball first,” he said.
“Ultimately, that’s the bread and butter if you’re a goalkeeper. I watch a bunch of goalkeepers now who everyone says are elite, high-level goalkeepers with their feet, but they struggle to save the ball and keep it away from the net.
“Ultimately, the ability to make saves will always and forever be the most important skill from a goalkeeping aspect.”
The goalkeeper now moves into the next phase of his life, ownership, as he owns a stake in both Dagenham & Redbridge and Memphis 901 FC.
“[I] Feel good. Feel lucky and very fortunate to have played 21 years professionally around the world and the clubs I’ve played for,” he said.
“I’m also excited to figure out what’s next. I continue to do my broadcasting. I have an ownership stake in a couple football teams to help run and operate those. From that aspect, I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
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