If you’re just looking at the scores, the United States’ World Cup journey was a slow slide of disappointment: a win, then a draw, then a 1-0 loss, then finally a 2-1 loss to Belgium that knocked them out of the tournament in the Round of 16.
But that view doesn’t quite tell the full story of the Americans’ run through the World Cup, as an underdog team emerged from the Group of Death and hordes of passionate fans put lie to the old saying that the U.S. doesn’t care about soccer. Even in defeat the American side earned the respect of soccer fans the world over, scoring a late goal in extra time and finding a national hero in goalie Tim Howard, whose valiant defense kept competitive what should have been a rout.
Over the course of the game’s 120 minutes, Howard had 16 saves – a new World Cup record.
The viewers watching in their homes, offices and bars couldn’t help but take notice. His legend was helped, of course, by the fact that the rest of the American defense wasn’t very good. On nearly every possession, the center-backs let the Belgians through virtually unimpeded, and on nearly every possession, Howard stopped them.
By the end of the match, Howard had gone from fairly well-regarded athlete to something like a national hero, a combination of Ulysses S. Grant and Vin Diesel. A multitude of memes were born.
After the match, the Howard crush turned to full-on fascination, as a suddenly soccer-less nation yearned for more information on its new hero.
Some highlights of our discoveries:
He was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome in sixth grade. When his emotions are running high during a match, his tics flare up. Luckily, he’s found a way to mange them. “As long as the game is not happening right in front of my nose but somewhere in the midfield, I let it twitch,” he told Der Spiegel in 2013. “As soon as things get serious in front of the goal, I don’t have any twitches … It’s probably because at that moment my concentration on the game is stronger than the Tourette syndrome.”
He once scored a goal during a Premiere League match. During a very windy game against Bolton, Howard became only the fourth keeper in the history of the English league to score. He refused to celebrate out of respect for the other goalie.
In high school, his yearbook quote game was on-point. See below:
Shortly after the Belgium match, he received a new job title. Sorry, Chuck Hagel; you’ve been replaced.
He has all of America comparing him to the Founding Fathers. Bless this Photoshop. If the U.S. Mint decided this would be the new face of the $1 bill, we don’t think any political party would complain.
So thank you, Tim Howard, and let’s hope to see you in Russia.