Former Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard produced his best performance to date for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, recording five saves as Pablo Mastroeni’s men held the LA Galaxy to a 1-1 draw at the StubHub Center.
Daniel Steres headed home the Galaxy’s goal from a Steven Gerrard corner 10 minutes after Shkelzen Gashi had given the Rapids a 51st-minute lead, but the hosts otherwise proved unable to capitalise on their wave of chances over the course of the match due to Howard’s sturdy presence between the posts.
The 37-year-old US international, who was making his seventh MLS appearance since returning to the States from Everton in July, pulled off a world class stop early on to prevent Gyasi Zardes from opening the scoring, before later stepping up to deny both Giovani dos Santos and Emanuel Boateng on two occasions each.
TIMMY HOWARD https://t.co/BNH5JlMSqK— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 14, 2016
His role in helping his side grab an impressive point on the road against a high-powered attack unsurprisingly earned him the man-of-the-match award on the night, although the ex-Mestrostars keeper was quick to give credit to his backline for their performance at the final whistle.
“It wasn't so much breakdowns it's just that LA is really good in the attacking third,” Howard told the Rapids’ official website after the draw. “They drop off in the pockets and they make them very hard to defend.
“More than anything we had to weather their storm. I think you saw in the second half we plugged those holes. It is not always breakdowns I think good teams put you in a position where you feel vulnerable and that is very difficult.”
Head coach Mastroeni added: “Obviously I think we’ve been a pretty good defensive team this year. Everything we do is predicated upon our defense. It ignites our attack. It keeps us in games. And when that hasn’t been the case, Tim has come up huge and tonight he had a great game for us.
“But again, the effort from Kevin Doyle up top all the way through the midfield and the backline against what is, obviously, the best attack in the league, the most potent attack in the league and for the guys to really put in a performance like this away from home speaks volumes of the type of the commitment they have towards one another.”
The Rapids were widely expected to endure a difficult 2016 season after finishing bottom of the Western Conference last term, but their turnaround since a significant rebuild over the winter has been extraordinary to say the least.
The club currently sit second in the West with 42 points – only two behind Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Dallas despite having a couple of games in hand – and have conceded a league-low 23 goals in their 25 matches.
They already have five more points than they accrued over the entirety of 2015, when they won just two of their first 17 fixtures, and also enjoyed a 15-game unbeaten run earlier in the campaign.
Needless to say, they look all but guaranteed to secure a playoff spot at this stage and, if Howard and his backline can carry their current form into the postseason, they certainly have to be considered genuine MLS Cup contenders.