HANOVER, N.J. — Sean Davis was just 10 years old when Tim Howard made his stunning move from the MetroStars to Manchester United in 2003.
Davis was still developing his soccer appreciation palate, but it’s a move that resonated with the Long Branch, N.J. native.
“I think we all grew up watching the Premier League,” the New York Red Bulls midfielder said after training Thursday. “Maybe we were young at the time, but of course, we knew Manchester United and to hear about a player coming from my hometown team going to a top team like Manchester United is really inspiring for all of us.”
Long before Davis would play for the same team, albeit by a different name when the team rebranded to the Red Bulls in 2006, he watched Howard play on Saturday mornings and rooted for the hometown guy.
“Of course, I remember that, he’s had a great career, and I have nothing but respect for his journey, what he’s gone through and how he’s tested himself as top levels,” Davis said. “That’s what the goal of every professional player is, to see how far they can push it. And he’s been iconic for us and American soccer.”
Although it was Giants Stadium where Howard plied his trade as an up-and-coming goalkeeper from North Brunswick, N.J., he’ll play his final game in the Garden State Saturday night at Red Bull Arena, and receive a pregame tribute on the end-zone video boards before the Colorado Rapids take on the Red Bulls.
Howard, 40, announced in January he will retire at the end of the season.
“I know how important he was to this club. I think we’re all proud to have this club be a part of his success,” Davis said. “It’s going to be awesome to share the field with him, especially again, it’s my hometown team. To be a part of, that’s really special. But the most important thing is three points. Hopefully we’ll score a few. But again, it is an honor to play against him.”
Chris Armas has different memories. Of course, Armas admired Howard’s consistency for club, first for Manchester United and then Everton in the Premier League, and for country. He watched, like so many others, in awe some of the saves he made — even as an opponent when Armas was a Chicago Fire midfielder.
But it was what Howard did on the training ground with the USMNT, when the cameras weren’t rolling and the fans weren’t in the stands, that stood out the most.
“Watching him after [training sessions] set a new standard for what goalkeepers should be. It would be him, Kasey Keller Tony Meola and Brad Friedel. Watching those guys up close, that’s what I remember about Tim Howard,” Armas said. “All those guys were tremendous and how much they pride themselves in the little things, and how quick he was, the details of not giving up rebounds, how hard he was on himself, the reactions to pounce on things.
“That’s what I remember most about Tim more than any performance — his training habits and what a good pro he was.”