Unlike the USMNT’s 2010 World Cup exit in the Round of 16 against Ghana, this year’s tournament exit has left seeds of brightness and hope amongst the ruins of tattered hopes and shattered dreams of glory.
This World Cup team for USA had a progressive, very resolute coach in Jurgen Klinsmann, and a lot of young, promising, and diverse talent. This team of course included the record-breaking heroics of Goalkeeper Tim Howard who has consistently proven his value to the US through his defense feats.
Here’s what you need to know about Tim Howard
Tim Howard has been a professional goalkeeper for over 17 years starting at a small club in New Jersey and then eventually finding himself in the EPL playing for both Manchester United and Everton (where he’s been since 2006). For the USMNT, he recently made his 100th appearance that speaks to his longevity and importance to the team. Howard was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when he was in middle school, but often talks of how soccer was the perfect outlet that gave him the ability to express himself and gain confidence.
Here’s what he did at the World Cup
In spite of the team losing to Belgium, Tim Howard was the clear Man of the Match with 16 saves (most ever in recorded World Cup history), almost twenty corner kicks, and flawless passing throughout 120 minutes of intense pressure and heat.
Because of this seemingly superhuman performance, Tim Howard has become the momentary Lord of the Internet sparking a number of different things like #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave, or becoming the US Secretary of Defense (accordingly to Wikipedia for a few minutes).
Howard is considered by many as the only true world class player in the American squad and after games like this, it’s easy to see why.
How this relates to coaching
While people will remember the saves, the secret of Tim Howard’s powers lie in what he’s doing long before the cameras point his way. He does the spectacular very well, but his secret is that he’s a master of positioning and communication. Next time you look at one of his highlights, take notice of where in relation to the goal he is. Howard picks his moments to come out so well that he maximizes his ability to then make those spectacular saves. That situational awareness and patience comes from years of coaching and experience (that’s why keepers get significantly better with age).
Goalkeepers have a complete different training approach than the rest of the team, and a large part is focused on is on the 90% of the game where the ball is no where near the goal. Communication is one of the goalkeeper’s biggest tools. I always tell my athletes that a great goalkeeper is like the scrolling news ticker at the bottom of CNN — a keeper should always be feeding relevant information to their teammates about things like defensive shape, incoming opposition, and helping them get an idea of what’s going on around them. Clear communication stops dangerous attacks from getting momentum long before they materialize in a shot on goal.
Looking to the future
The fact that the mainstream has embraced Howard’s ability so fervently shows how far soccer has come as a sport in the US. In fact, it means that more athletes will be lacing their boots up in hopes of doing the same some day for their country.
Young athletes should enjoy the spectacle of the sport that they love during memorable tournaments like this year’s. Yet, if the US ever wants to truly become a world power in soccer, the overall technical and tactical levels at every level need to increase. Of course, love and passion for the game has to come first, but there comes a point where the differentiator becomes training the right way and having the right coaches. Playing in teams usually helps develop the foundation of your game, but private one-on-one coaching will truly take your game to the next level because of the detailed focus and individual attention a coach can provide to one athlete.
There has never been an easier time to find a great private coach near you. As a goalkeeper and CoachUp soccer coach, I encourage you to learn more about the soccer coaches in your area. You never know, you might find a current MLS player like, Chandler Hoffman or Danny Cruz, coaching nearby you.