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Thirteen years after leaving MLS for a career in the English Premier League that included an FA Cup title, a PFA goalkeeper of the year honor with Manchester United, more than 100 shutouts, and a consecutive appearance streak reaching 210 matches with Everton, Tim Howard is returning to the U.S.
The Colorado Rapids, long rumored to be pursuing the veteran goalie, announced Sunday morning that the two sides have reached an agreement. Howard will join Colorado in July as a designated player following the conclusion of Everton’s Premier League campaign. The 37-year-old has been on the bench at Goodison Park behind Spaniard Joel Robles and hasn’t played in a league game in two months.
"I've had a fantastic career in England," Howard told ESPN. "I think as football clubs move forward and players have careers to think about, you always have to make decisions and sometimes those are every four years and sometimes they creep on you. And this one kind of crept up on me because I had two years remaining here at Everton which I planned on seeing out. But I think when I spoke to my family and spoke to [Everton coach] Roberto Martinez and the chairman as well, I thought the decision and the timing more than anything--in life it's all about timing--and obviously with my discussions with Colorado it just seemed to be the right move. It wan an instinctual gut feeling and I'm excited about it."
Colorado and Everton agreed to a transfer fee of around $700,000, according to SI's Grant Wahl, and his deal with Colorado is expected to extend through the 2019 MLS season. Howard will make $2.5-$2.8 million per year, ESPN reported. Last year, the highest-earning goalie in MLS was Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, who pulled in $370,000.
Howard, a New Jersey native, started his pro career with the New York Red Bulls (then the MetroStars) in 1998 and was named the 2001 MLS goalkeeper of the year. He moved to Manchester United in the summer of ’03 and then on to Everton three years later.
Howard is expected to be in camp with the U.S. national team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala on March 25 in Guatemala City and March 29 in Columbus, Ohio. The 2010 and 2014 World Cup starter will be vying for minutes with Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan, who took over the No. 1 shirt while Howard took a self-imposed national team sabbatical in 2014-15. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is expected to announce his roster later Sunday.
The Rapids (1-1-0) will meet D.C. United in the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon. Colorado secured the top spot in the MLS allocation order, which offers right of first refusal to certain U.S. internationals and returning players who left MLS for a transfer fee, thanks to a January trade with the Chicago Fire. Colorado initially had expressed interest in U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya but were unable to pry him from France's Nantes.
"Tim is exceptional, both as a player and a person,” Colorado technical director Paul Bravo said. “He proved it at the last World Cup for the U.S national team and he has been proving it for the last decade in the English Premier League. He has experience at the very pinnacle of the sport but we feel he has much still to offer on the pitch. We believe this is a pivotal signing for the Colorado Rapids."
There may be questions about whether Colorado needs a new goalkeeper, but there's no doubt that the club has lacked relevance and needs a bit of a boost. The Rapids have floundered since winning the 2010 MLS championship and have missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. In 2015 they scored only 33 league goals, the worst output in MLS, and had the league's lowest average attendance. A decision to spend more money (the Rapids are owned by Arsenal and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke) resulted in the courtship of Mexican stars Alan Pulido and Carlos Vela and the signing of Albanian/Swiss forward Shkëlzen Gashi and U.S. national team midfielder Jermaine Jones.
"Tim is one of the greatest players this country has ever produced and we are delighted that he chose the Colorado Rapids when he decided to rejoin MLS,” Rapids president Tim Hinchey said. "We believe he can be an ambassador not only for our club but for the sport of soccer in the U.S. We are truly excited that Tim is a part of our future and on behalf of everyone associated with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, welcome him to our club."