epa04294857 USA's goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts after receving the 1-0 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, 01 July 2014. (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO EDITORIAL USE ONLY
USA's goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts after receving the 1-0 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazi.
EPA

American hero.

That’s been the verdict on United States goalkeeper Tim Howard after his astounding World Cup performance against the Belgium Red Devils.

The 35-year-old bearded veteran lunged, scrambled, and screamed, integral to his country’s battle in the quarterfinal match, as the youthful, deft attackers of Belgium pummeled the American defense with possession and scoring chances.

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“I think when you’re active in the match a lot, you just go into a zone,” Howard told media, via a conference call on Wednesday.

He credited his back line for remaining solid enough to stave off the relentless Belgians in the full 90 minutes.

“I mean those guys in front of me, how they run that long and hard is beyond me,” he said. “I’m driving them on, I’m cracking the whip. They keep pushing themselves, and their performance was absolutely miraculous.”

Still, pressed and driven to limits incessantly, it was hard to believe any goalie was capable of sustaining that caliber of operation.

But Howard executed with no second thoughts, confessing, amid typical preparation, an element of fortune helped incite his marvelous display.

“I always try to do the same things everyday. I eat the same way; I train the same way. And I’ve found success doing that,” Howard said. “I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for those types of performances. You just hope that you’ve worked hard enough, or long enough, you’ll get a little bit of luck.”

He was determined to bring home victory for the United States, and frankly, himself. With Landon Donovan excluded from the final 23-man roster, Howard was left to prove he is more than just a fairly successful American who plays in England.

He embodies a soon-to-be-gone era of US soccer, making his first international appearance in 2002, one year after 32-year-old DaMarcus Beasley debuted and two years after Donovan arrived on the scene.

Beasley, and especially the LA Galaxy standout, look poised to end their United States careers when the 2018 World Cup emerges.

Being a goalie, though, Howard could extend international life, possibly able to take the pitch near the 40-year-old mark.

At Everton, his fate has already been decided, and next season, the Premier League squad may set the Champions League in their sights following a fifth-place league ranking last year.

“I signed an extension, which is a four-year contract for Everton, so that excites me,” he said.

With Klinsmann and the US, however, his status remains uncertain.

“What happens going forward (with the United States)? And that’s something I don’t know,” he said.

You could hear it in his voice. The passion. The dedication. The heartbreaking disappointment regarding a sudden World Cup exit. He has represented his country in a game that he loved for over 12 long years.

“The emotions are too raw at the moment, so I’ll let everything die down,” he said. “I’ll speak to people who are close to me and the manager, and kind of decide what my future looks like. I don’t think it’s very black and white, to be honest, so I need to figure that out.”

The betting man would assert that Howard wants to return. If healthy, he will certainly ponder entrance because he’s a furious competitor above all else.

Assuming he opts to retire, followers of the beautiful game, not Howard, will finalize his meaning to professional soccer.

“You guys let me know what my legacy is. It’s something I can’t really make a decision on,” Howard concluded.