Ciardi said Manchester United has been receptive to the idea of participating, and the hope is the crew will be able to film in Old Trafford next May following the conclusion of the Premier League season. Howard will have a limited role in the filmmaking process as a consultant. “It’s been the easiest major project I’ve been involved in because it’s just my life,” Howard said. “And a moment in my life that I remember fondly.”
Howard moved to Man United from the MLS’ NY/NJ Metrostars in 2003 and took the place of legendary backstop Fabien Barthez, winning two FA Cups, a League Cup, and the Community Shield before moving to Everton.
He spent nearly a decade at Goodison Park, most of it as the Toffees’ No. 1 keeper, before heading back to MLS with the Colorado Rapids. Howard has 121 caps for the USMNT and his performance in the extra time loss to Belgium at the 2014 World Cup is considered one of the greatest shows in U.S. Soccer history.
We definitely want to see your lists, but won’t dodge the duty of putting together a 20-pack of our own.
The only two parameters are that the player spent the lion’s share of his career — or career so-far — with the team in question or had a significant historical moment with the club, and that he played during the Premier League era.
There will be the appearance of recency bias for some of these clubs whose PL existence doesn’t run back too far.
And there’s also the challenge that comes with certain players just striking our fancy at any given time.
Arsenal — It just has to be Thierry Henry. The French magician elevated the beauty of the game, even if you didn’t like his particular club.
Aston Villa — Oddly enough as an American, I’m not going with one of the Brads (Freidel or Guzan). I’m also going with a player who’s playing just his second season with the club. Tyrone Mings is a fearless defender with an old-school ethic. One of the scariest players in the league today.
Bournemouth — Wanted to cheat and say Eddie Howe, but the Cherries weren’t in the PL when he was a player. I’ll take one of the two closest things to Howe on the current roster and that is Steve Cook (honorable nod to Simon Francis). Cook has appeared a record 329 times for the Cherries beginning at the League One level in 2011. Massive respect to a mainstay who isn’t even the first Steve Cook that shows up on a Google search.
Brighton and Hove Albion — I’m sure there’s a subset of Seagulls supporters who haven’t yet forgiven Glenn Murray for his time at M23 Derby rivals Palace, but I love that the 36-year-old is still bagging goals in his second 100-plus appearance stint with the club.
Burnley — Tom Heaton may be the most underappreciated keeper to don an England shirt, and he’s twice led the Clarets into the Premier League. Now in a different claret shirt, he’s not forgotten.
Chelsea — Love the helmet. Love the saves. Love the rock drumming and the post-soccer hockey career. Petr Cech, all the way. In time, though, this could become Cesar Azpilicueta or, for obvious reasons, Christian Pulisic.
Crystal Palace — Mile Jedinak. I loved the guy not just for being a tremendous and intimidating midfielder, but because he might’ve kept all sorts of items in his dense beard.
Everton — Come on. Too easy.
Leicester City — This one’s tricky via our rules, as he’s won the league with two different teams and has spent longer with the second one but N’Golo Kante made his name on the Foxes’ miracle title team. In time, he may be looked at as a player who revolutionized or at least brilliantly refined his position. If you must have another name, pretend I chose Kasper Schmeichel.
Liverpool — This one may surprise given the amount of attacking and eye-catching talent to roam Anfield, but there are few players I enjoyed watching more than Martin Skrtel. I once saw a cartoon image of him eating nails out of a cereal bowl and considered for a moment that it might be part of his diet.
Manchester City — Tricky one, this. James Milner at this point seems destined to be remembered as a Liverpool man, don’t you think? Ultimately, I’m going to overlook how slimy agent Dimitry Seluk tried to derail my love for Yaya Toure, one of the characters of the game with an almost unrivaled skill set. Also, the birthday cake thing is still pretty funny.
Manchester United — Roy Keanejust over Nemanja Vidic.
Newcastle United — A tough one for me, who has found appeal with a number of players to don the black and white stripes. Alan Shearer’s legend helped shape my love for the game and Shay Given performing well above his size makes him high on the list. But for some reason the cerebral and physical play of club leader Fabricio Coloccini makes him my favorite player in the world. I didn’t say I was normal.
Norwich City — Shout out to Nathan Redmond, but I can’t get the early season heroics of 30-going-on-50 striker Teemu Pukki out of my mind here. Emi Buendia has a shot here if Norwich can stay up and he doesn’t bolt for another club.
Sheffield United — ITough one here, as Blades spent only three PL season prior to this one and two were when I was in middle school. I like John Lundstram over club heroes Phil Jagielka and Billy Sharp.
Southampton — Tough one here as Saints have had so many players shine for them only to become firmly associated with other clubs. I loved Virgil van Dijk back to his Celtic days but he’s undoubtedly Liverpool at this point. Give me Adam Lallana and a pair of crossed fingers that he returns to St. Mary’s to remind us of the man who scored 59 times with 48 assists after coming out of the vaunted Saints academy.
Tottenham Hotspur — I’d love to force Clint Dempsey in here but that’s a Fulham man, man. And I’ve got a lot of time for Heung-min Son, too. But I’m going to give an edge to Robbie Keane over his strike partner Jermain Defoe.
Watford — Show me a man who looks like he enjoys sandwiches as much as the rest of us but has a century of goals between the Championship and Premier League and I’ll be challenged to say I like someone more than Troy Deeney. American bias, sure, but Jay DeMerit‘s story of being ignored by MLS sides out of college and knocking on doors around England en route to a Man of the Match performance in a Premier League promotion-clinching win is chest-thumping stuff.
West Ham United — Bit of a strange one here. Michael Carrick was a beauty and an academy guy but you’re not going to mistake him for anything other than Man Utd. I’m going with Sporting KC’s Kiwi center back Winston Reid as the player I’ve most admired during my time watching the Hammers.
Wolverhampton Wanderers — Big Raul Jimenez gets my nod. The best active player in North America.
So we’re wondering: Who’s the best player you’ve ever seen live? Hit up the comments section with your takes, and allow me to walk you through mine.
International: It’s August 10, 2010 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and your United States men’s national team is taking the field for the first time since Ghana ended the World Cup dreams of Bob Bradley’s boys with a 2-1 defeat in Rustenberg.
The vibe at the AO tailgate is lively, friends from all over the country gathered in the Garden State to see the hosts welcome a Brazil side that blew a halftime lead against the Netherlands to bow out in the World Cup quarterfinals.
It’s fortunate that the AO seats that wound up in my hands were a few rows behind Tim Howard, because that was the end to see most of the first half.
Brazil left Kaka and Luis Fabiano at home, which begged what they might’ve done with those two pulling the strings. It’s not worth too much debate, because Mano Menezes’ Starting XI included Robinho, Ramires, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, and Alexandre Pato and a kid making his international debut.
His name was Neymar, and any hopes of the youngster being humbled by the big crowd and his first cap were dashed immediately. While it wasn’t the virtuoso show we’d see so many times in Barcelona, PSG, and Brazil shirts moving forward, it was clear this kid had it.
The thumping header at the back post meant it took less than a half-hour for Neymar Jr. to show us his first of 61 senior goals and counting for Brazil. He was young, naive, unrefined… and electric.
Club: This one’s more difficult, if only because the majority of the senior action I’ve seen in person has been in Major League Soccer, with a few jaunts overseas. There’s always a ‘guy’ who stands out, though, per game, whether a young and gigantic Andy Carroll for Newcastle at Stoke in 2009, Niklas Dorsch running the midfield for Heidenheim in relegating Duisburg from the Bundesliga last Spring, or Frank Lampard and Kaka dueling in Orlando a few years earlier.
But the most dominant forces I’ve seen on a consistent basis have both had ties to Canada. On the MLS side, any chance to see Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto FC at BMO Field was a chance to catch a firefly, but in terms of sheer dominance I’m looking to the ladies.
Christine Sinclair was the best player on a loaded Western New York Flash roster when I was their play-by-play man during the 2011 WPS season. Now the all-time leading scorer amongst women, Sinclair punished teams that season and stood out despite a roster that included Marta, Alex Morgan, Caroline Seger, Ashlyn Harris, and McCall Zerboni amongst others.
Sinclair scored in regulation of a final against Philadelphia that went to penalty kicks, and converted her spot kick, too. If Zlatan is a lion, she’s part of the same pride. A force.
College/Amateur: Before my alma mater unceremoniously cut men’s soccer, the University at Buffalo played in the Mid American Conference and delivered all sorts of high drama. The highlight was usually the visit of Akron, a national champion who had been neck-and-neck with the Buffalo Bulls in the 2000s before putting a stranglehold on the rivalry. UB was the runner-up to Akron in 2015 and 2016 behind a brilliant team featuring now-USL player Russell Cicerone and a future New Zealand club captain in Fox Slotemaker. The 2016 season gives us our story.
The Zips had a freshman on the right side who was almost always in the right place, with mind-bending pace to help with the times he was caught astray. Jonathan Lewis had spent a season abroad with Bradford City before opting for school, and he was a one-and-done in Ohio after recording 12 assists, one in that game. I’ve seen some incredible college talents, but Lewis was the best by a good margin. He’s now earned six USMNT caps and 48 MLS appearances between NYCFC and Colorado at the age of 22.
We head to the blue side of Liverpool for this post.
(Almost) All The Way Up: The Toffees are one of six teams to have not been relegated in the Premier League era, and the club feels like its brimming with potential at the beginning of so many seasons. The fits and starts of late have only served to fuel hope for a return to glory; Remember: Everton won the league twice in the 1980s and claimed a Cup Winners’ Cup, too, when they outlasted Dublin, Internacional Bratislava, Fortuna Sittard, Bayern Munich, and finally Rapid Vienna to lift the silverware in 1985 at Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam. With a young local brood — Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Holgate — coming into its own alongside Richarlison and Lucas Digne, can the Toffees ride back into Europe?
Commitment to Community: This club puts a special stamp on being a part of its community through Everton in the Community. We especially love “The Goodison Sleepout,” where the Toffees’ U-23s join members of the communities in spending the night at stadium to raise money for young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It’s an incredible organization and an inspiration for community-based clubs around the world.
The Merseyside Derby: No club feels right without its top villain, and Liverpool and Everton wage at least two intense battles a year between Anfield and Goodison Park. This part of the post feels a little goofy at the moment given the Reds dominance over the derby — The Reds have 11 wins and 10 draws since Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta keyed a 2010 win at Goodison — but make no mistake about the atmosphere between these two. The potential is there for it to stand alone as the most important derby on a league calendar.
Tim Howard: Yeah, this fellas hasn’t been with the Toffees for some time, but he left Goodison with the third-most appearances in club history. Leighton Baines has since past Howard’s 413 appearances but the American goalkeeper is safely in the Toffees’ top four unless Phil Jagielka transfers back (Seamus Coleman is 103 behind). Howard was so, so good.
Memphis 901 FC made a shocking announcement on Wednesday that Tim Howard ended his brief retirement and signed a contract to play the upcoming USL Championship season. Howard is a minority owner with Memphis 901 and was named sporting director for the team in the offseason, as he had been involved in scouting and signing players for this season’s roster.
At almost 41-years old, Howard will be one of the oldest professionals still playing in the U.S. However, there’s no doubt that he can add a lot to the young players for Memphis who are on the way up, and he’ll get to enjoy one more season in net against a slightly lower level of competition. In addition, he links up with head coach Tim Mulqueen, who originally discovered Howard as a pre-teen when Mulqueen was the goalkeeper coach for the Metrostars in the mid-to-late 1990s and Howard was a pre-teen.
“Since my retirement in October, my obsession for football has grown,” Howard said in a statement. “The desire to win continues to drive me. I love to play and I love to compete, this gives me the opportunity to do both.”
The U.S. Men’s National Team legend announced before the start of the 2019 season that it would be his final season as a professional, while he was a Designated Player for the struggling Colorado Rapids. However, it appears that he had the itch to play after spending some time working with the club this offseason.
Although he hails from New Jersey, Tim Howard made Memphis his offseason base for nearly the past decade, as his family lives in the area. Now, Howard has the opportunity to play in front of his closest fans at home. Howard became a part-owner of the club in 2018 and the club made its debut in USL in 2019.