After the Americans were eliminated from the World Cup Tuesday, goalkeeper Tim Howard was summoned from a somber United States locker room to take a random drug test, standard per FIFA regulations.
“Someone else said that as well,” Howard said with a laugh Wednesday when he joined “Mike and Mike” on ESPN Radio and was asked if it perhaps it wasn’t really random. “Maybe.”
It’s a fair question in light of how brilliantly Howard had just played in the Americans’ 2-1 loss to Belgium. Seemingly the only thing keeping the U.S. alive while being outshot 38-14, Howard’s 12 saves during a scoreless regulation forced extra time. He then added four more to finish with 16, which is the most in a World Cup match since 2002, when FIFA began keeping track of saves.
It was incredible enough to leave even soccer critics and neophytes in amazement.
Howard, a native of North Brunswick, N.J., was becoming an Internet sensation even before the match ended. One Wikipedia user jokingly appointed him the incumbent on the “United States Secretary of Defense” page before the person who actually holds that title, Chuck Hagel, called Howard with congratulations and an invitation to the Pentagon.
Trending on Twitter was the hashtag “ThingsTimHowardCouldSave”, with users superimposing his likeness into recognizable images of disaster.
Belgium’s captain, Vincent Kompany, offered his applause in a tweet that read: “Two words.. TIM HOWARD #Respect #BelUSA.”
The question now is whether Howard’s memorable World Cup performance will be his last. He’s 35 and will be 39 by the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“I don’t know,” he told ESPN Radio. “I need to kind of take stock of where I’m at and obviously with the emotion of last night and this whole six weeks, it’s hard to start to put into context. So when the dust settles, I’ll speak to the important people in my decision-making process and have a few conversations and see where we go.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.