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Game Changers 2014: Tim Howard

Proving you don’t have to be a striker to be a star.

Tim Howard has singlehandedly elevated American soccer to the next level

At the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Tim Howard turned seemed to play outside of himself. Against Belgium in the round of 16, the United States men’s national team goalkeeper made three saves in the first half, eight in the second, and five in extra time. When the final whistle blew, the Americans lost 2-1 but U.S.’s newest leading man recorded 16 saves—most of them acrobatic—the most in a World Cup match since 1966.

The New Jersey-born Howard, 35, has been the Stars and Stripes starting goalkeeper since 2006 and one of the best to hold the position in the English Premier League (mostly for Manchester United), the strongest league in the world, for nearly a decade. Through the years he’s overcome dislocated fingers, Tourette syndrome, a broken back, and other obstacles on the way to starting for both top clubs and country. Many are wondering if his superhuman feats in Brazil will be Howard’s swan song. He disagrees.

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“Physically I am fine,” he told Men’s Fitness the day after his record-breaking performance. “But when you’re in the match a lot, your body goes into a zone. You go into auto-pilot. Those guys in front of me are incredible. I’m driving them hard and I’m cracking the whip, and I can see they don’t want to do it but they keep pushing themselves.” They certainly do, but on the multiple occasions when the defense slipped up, Howard always seemed to be standing in the net, ready to save the day. 

FIT FACT: Howard is a self-described “gym rat,” spending up to an hour a day in the gym with a trainer.

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