'Keeper finds a home

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

SEATTLE -- Tim Howard was as shocked as everybody else in the word.

Up 2-0 at halftime against Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, the goalkeeper and the rest of his American teammates were on the verge of a monumental upset.

It would have superseded the upset pulled off by the U.S. a few days earlier in a 2-0 win in the semifinal over Spain -- at the time the No.1-ranked team in the world.

"It was crazy at the half, because we had never been in a situation like that before," Howard said yesterday following a practice session with his club team, Everton, in Seattle.

"I think that was part of our downfall. We had a young team, which is really good and on certain days, like against Spain and in that first half against Brazil, we showed we can play physically with those types of teams.

"But it's other types of situations where we have to work on. If Brazil was up 2-0 there wouldn't have been a chance in the world we would have been able to come back to win.

"So we need to learn from things like that and how to finish a team off when we're leading 2-0. Those are special moments."

Brazil was able to come back in the contest, scoring three second-half goals, en route to a 3-2 win and another Confederations Cup title. All was right with the soccer world again.

However, Howard, 30, and his national team did serve notice, especially back in the United States where excitement began to build on their chances at the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Having rejoined Everton in Seattle this week, the New Jersey native is now focused on the upcoming Premier League season in England, which gets underway in mid-August.

Part of that preparation includes an exhibition game against River Plate Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. It's the first time Everton has faced the giants of Argentine soccer.

"River Plate is fantastic," Howard said. "Between them and Boca Juniors, they pretty much run the roost in South America. They'll be a very good technical team, it'll be a little different than what we face every week in England.

"It's always good to have tough games during the preseason, because it sets the standard or the mark of where you want to be."

Currently for Howard, things couldn't be much better. He was outstanding for Everton last season as they finished fifth in the league and made it to the FA Cup final for the first time since 1995.

Then this summer with the U.S. national team, Howard was primarily responsible for the win over Spain, making a number of outstanding saves in the contest. He then held the Brazilians at bay for the first half in the final, before the floodgates opened.

"Undoubtedly Tim has done great and he was great for us last season," said Everton manager David Moyes. "He's an experienced goalkeeper now in the Premier League. Sometimes when you make a move from a big club like Manchester United, it can affect people, not in the right way. They see it as a step down. But I think Tim has seen it as a step in the right direction."

Having started his career with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of Major League Soccer in the U.S., Howard was signed by Manchester United in 2003, becoming the first American-born goalie to start for the storied club. In 2006, United signed Edwin van der Sar, which relegated Howard to a backup position. He was loaned to Everton and it led to a transfer.

"After I left and came to Everton, there were a lot of goals I wanted to achieve as far as my professional career in England and where I wanted my international career to go," he said. "Now I can certainly say things have worked out the way I hoped they would or expected them to."


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