|Howard’s memorable play marks US World Cup run|
|Wednesday, July 02, 2014 8:09 PM|
SAO PAULO — Tim Howard left a lasting impression on Americans from coast to coast — and fans around the world, really — for his incredible, improbable saves in the loss to Belgium in extra time that sent the U.S. home from the World Cup to a country captivated.
Howard is a big reason — 6-3, to be exact — for the fascination. He has become a Twitter sensation in less than a day, while raising one important question before he leaves Brazil: Will the 35-year-old goalkeeper be back for the next World Cup four years from now in Russia?
“When you’re in the public eye, it’s part of what you have to deal with,” Howard replied Wednesday of the hype from his record-setting World Cup. “I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. It’s nice that America knows about soccer now. That’s what’s important.”
Howard’s 16 saves in the 2-1 loss were the most in a World Cup game since FIFA started tracking the statistic in 2002.
Someone had fun with Howard’s heroics on Wikipedia, briefly listing the star goalie as incumbent “Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.” Later, the real defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, called Howard with congratulations and a team invite to the Pentagon.
A photo from Howard’s high school yearbook even began circulating, featuring the quote, “It will take a nation of millions to hold me back.”
Even Belgium captain Vincent Kompany tweeted: “Two words.. TIM HOWARD #Respect #BelUSA.” That post had received 59,675 re-tweets and 45,242 favorites by early evening Wednesday.
“It’s fantastic because it also shows how all the games in the World Cup were received back at home,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, “and many people watched this competition maybe more than it was four years ago in South Africa. It’s fun to see that, and he deserves every compliment for his game last night.”
The hashtag ThingsTimHowardCouldSave was trending on Twitter and fans superimposed his image into all sorts of famous scenes. There’s an outstretched Howard preventing the Titanic from sinking and breaking up Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal.
“With social media, nothing surprises me,” Howard said. “There are some very creative and fun individuals out there.”
The team was scheduled to fly back to the U.S. late Wednesday, and Howard soon will return to his Premier League club, Everton.
Millions of Americans will be rooting for Howard to play in the 2018 World Cup. That’s something Howard will discuss with those close to him.
“What happens going forward with the national team, I don’t know,” he added. “I don’t think it’s very black and white, to be honest. I need to figure all that out.”
Howard had 15 shutouts — one behind co-leaders Petr Cech of Chelsea and Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal — in 37 league matches for Everton this season before joining the Americans in mid-May for training camp in Northern California. In the spring, he signed a 2-year contract extension through 2018 and is likely to close out his career with Everton.
“He was fantastic. There’s no other way to put it,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “He’s somebody that we rely on so much for his performances on the field but also his leadership and his presence. So honestly, there’s not enough good things to say about him as a player, as a man, as a leader.”
Klinsmann knows how much he meant for the Americans reaching back-to-back World Cup knockout rounds.
“I’m lucky to be in a long line of great goalkeepers,” Howard replied when asked about his legacy. “I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for those types of performances.”
Klinsmann was right: US not ready to win World Cup: Turns out Klinsmann was right: The United States isn’t ready to win the World Cup.
The Americans were eliminated in the round of 16 for the second straight tournament. They’ve been ranked 13th or 14th every month since September, which means their exit was pretty much at the stage it’s expected to be.
“Clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you,” the U.S. coach said Wednesday, a day after the 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time.
From Wall Street to the White House to the West Coast, Americans watched their national team on television in record numbers. While buoyed by the increase in attention, players are desperate to join the world’s elite and far from attaining that level.
Klinsmann was a World Cup champion as a player with West Germany in 1990 and coach of the German team that reached the 2006 semifinals. Having moved to California in 1998 with his American wife, he is seen as bringing the perspective of soccer’s elite to a nation that remains a new world in the sport.
His message to players is they don’t do enough. They don’t play twice a week, like Champions League stars. They don’t face condemnation from their community after losses and poor performances.
“It makes them feel accountable, not just walk away with a bad performance and nothing happens,” he said. “If you have a bad performance, then people should approach you and tell you that, so make sure that next game is not bad anymore and that you step it up.”
Late Wednesday at the airport, captain Clint Dempsey, forward Jozy Altidore and defender DaMarcus Beasley were cheered and stopped for autographs and photos before they boarded an American Airlines flight to Miami.
The Americans’ final match, which kicked off at 4 p.m. EDT on a weekday, was seen by 21.6 million on ESPN and Univision, impressively close to the record 24.7 million set for a Sunday evening game against Portugal earlier in the tournament. An average of 1.6 million watched the loss to Belgium on digital streams.
“People now start to care about it. Fans care about it. They comment on social media. They comment everywhere about it and that’s good,” Klinsmann said.
His most controversial moves coming into the tournament were cutting Landon Donovan, the biggest star in U.S. soccer history, and taking along 18-year-old Julian Green, 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin and 21-year-old John Brooks. Brooks and Green, who turned 19 on June 6, responded with late-game goals when they came in as substitutes and Yedlin was stellar against Belgium when he replaced injured right back Fabian Johnson.
But Klinsmann’s proclamation that the U.S. would play an attacking game didn’t pan out. The Americans were outshot by a combined 92-41.
“The interesting part is every time we would go down a goal, we’ll shift it up,” he said. “I believe it’s more a mental topic that we have to work on than it is a talent topic.”
Klinsmann took over from Bob Bradley in July 2011. Last December, he was given a contract through the 2018 tournament that added the title of U.S. Soccer Federation technical director. In the next 4-year cycle, he has numerous chances to integrate youth: the CONCACAF Gold Cups in 2015 and 2017, the centennial Copa America in 2016 and a possible trip to the Confederations Cup in 2017.
There also is the under-23 team that will try to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics — the 2012 team stumbled and didn’t reach the London Games, slowing the careers of more than a dozen players.
“We’ve got to do much better than the last cycle,” he said.
He defended his pre-tournament comment that the U.S. was not ready to win the World Cup, saying he didn’t want to raise “expectations to kind of a level that is over the moon.”
Nielsen: 21.6 million viewers for Belgium game
NEW YORK — An estimated 21.6 million people watched Belgium knock out the United States soccer team in the World Cup on U.S. television — an impressive total for a weekday afternoon that almost certainly undercounts how many people actually saw it.
The Nielsen company reported Wednesday that 16.5 million people watched the game on ESPN, with 5.1 million more seeing it on the Spanish-language Univision network; in addition, nearly 1.7 million people watched an online stream of the event.
The Portugal game took place on a weekend, however, when there were more people with free time available to watch. The U.S.-Belgium game started at 4 p.m. on the East Coast, earlier in other time zones, during a working day.
Nielsen does not measure viewership in bars, offices or other public places. In 2010, ESPN estimated that the stated audience size for weekday World Cup games would increase by 23 percent if public viewing were taken into account.
Still, Tuesday’s knockout game exceeded the average viewership for the most recent World Series and NBA Finals, events that took place during prime-time when more people were home to watch.
The just-concluded NBA series where the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat averaged 15.5 million viewers, with 18 million watching the final game. Last fall’s World Series averaged 14.9 million viewers, with 19.2 million watching the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the last game.
ESPN announced that overall viewership for the World Cup is up 44 percent over 2010.