After a 13-year spell in England, Tim Howard was back in MLS action on Monday night, registering a clean sheet on his much-anticipated Colorado Rapids debut to help his new club hold reigning MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers to a goalless draw at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The 37-year-old US international goalkeeper was only forced into two saves during the 90 minutes, producing a pair of second-half stops from Darren Mattocks and Lucas Melano, but he was just glad to get down to business after a hectic week of media duties leading up to the game.
“I was excited. I still get nervous, I still get anxious,” the former Everton star told MLSSoccer.com after match. “But I’ve done it a lot of times – over 650 – so I know how to prepare well, do the media side of things and get the hustle and bustle out of the way.
“It’s been a bit crazy this whole week so today was finally like getting down to business. The result for me was okay. Obviously you always want to win but we kept a clean sheet at home.
“It was a bit of a laboured performance but give credit to Portland. They’re a good team – they are the champions – so I thought it was an ok performance. Defensively we got a clean sheet, so on my end that’s the most important thing.”
Howard originally announced in March that he was ending his 10-year association with Everton this summer to return to MLS, having made 85 appearances for the Metrostars between 1998 and 2003 before securing a high-profile move to Manchester United.
At the time, the Rapids weren’t expected to achieve much in 2016 after finishing bottom of the Western Conference last season, but their turnaround so far this term has been nothing short of remarkable.
The club have taken 33 points from their first 17 matches to leave them sitting second in the West and are just one point behind Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Dallas with two games in hand.
They’ve only conceded 11 goals in the process – six less than any other team in the league – and former No. 1 Zac MacMath had been a big part of that success before Howard’s arrival relegated him to the bench.
The pair incidentally know each other well already after MacMath spent three consecutive offseasons training at Everton between 2010 and 2012 while on the Philadelphia Union's books, and Howard acknowledged that his 24-year-old counterpart was decidedly unfortunate to suddenly find himself watching from the sidelines.
“I think Zac MacMath has done an incredible job with this defensive unit,” he added to MLSSoccer.com. “They’re as stingy as they come. I just want to try to get in with those guys, earn their respect, try to understand what they think and help them understand how I see things.
“Ultimately in a few games or a month or so we’ll kind of know each inside out and keep pushing forward from there.”
Howard's next start for the Rapids is set to come on Saturday when Pablo Mastroeni's men travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Vancouver Whitecaps, who sit sixth in the West with 24 points from 18 games after losing 2-0 at the LA Galaxy on Monday night.