Tim Howard and the Top 10 American Goalkeepers in History
As the saying goes, "you're only as good as your weakest link."
In soccer, you're only as good as your last line of defense—your goalkeeper.
Between those two pipes stands the one person a given team entrusts with its life. For a great team suffers at the hands of a weak goalkeeper just as a weak team can thrive at the hands of a strong goalkeeper.
Yes, believe it or not, they're that important.
A big save doesn't pump up just the goalkeeper, but also the entire team. It can propel the team towards a great counter attack, while the other team wonders, "how the heck did they make that save?"
On the other hand, an easy goal can have the opposite effect. It can destroy a team. It's a momentum-killing shot to the head that leaves the team down in the dumps.
Sure, the best defense may sometimes be a great offense, but sooner or later, you're going to get tested.
That's where it helps to have a superb last line of defense.
Throughout their history, the United States has been fortunate enough to possess some of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Here are the 10 best.
10. Abdul 'Bill' Hamid
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Current Club: D.C. United
Why: At 21, Hamid is considered one of the top up-and-coming U.S. players. He made history when he became the first D.C. United Academy player to sign with the first team in 2009.
Even more impressive was his overseas interest. However, work-permit issues caused a potential move to Celtic to fall through.
At 19 years and 161 days, Hamid beat out Tim Howard’s record as the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to record a win.
His strong play currently has D.C. United fourth in the Eastern Conference with 51 points. In 21 starts, Hamid is 11-3-6 with 7 clean sheets and a 1.00 GAA.
After a stint with the U23 U.S. international team, Hamid made his first-team debut on Jan. 21 against Venezuela.
He is definitely one to keep an eye out for, as his future looks extremely bright.
9. Joe Cannon
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Current Club: Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Why: An undrafted talent, Cannon rewarded the San Jose Earthquakes for taking a chance on him by leading them to the 2001 MLS Cup. His play earned him a MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award in 2002.
Feeling like he had accomplished all he could in the MLS, Cannon tried his luck in Europe with France’s Ligue 1 club RC Lens. However, he would never appear in first-team action.
Cannon has only appeared in two international contests from 2003-2005.
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - 2002, 2004
-MLS Best XI - 2004
8. Zach Thornton
Jeff Golden/Getty Images
Last Club: Chivas USA
Why: After playing backup to two future U.S. goalkeeping legends in Tony Meola and Tim Howard, Thornton decided to make a name for himself.
After being drafted by the Chicago Fire in the 1997 MLS expansion draft, he would get that chance.
During his first season with the team, not only did he beat out Mexican international Jorge Campos, but he also led the Fire to the MLS Cup. His impressive play warranted him the title of MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and instilled his name into the hearts of many in Chicago.
He went on to play eight more seasons with the club before making stints with the Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA.
Thornton’s international career has been less successful, only receiving eight appearances.
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - 1998, 2009
-MLS Best XI - 1998, 2009
7. Nick Rimando
George Frey/Getty Images
Current Club: Real Salt Lake
Why: A two-time MLS Cup winner, Rimando has made his mark in the MLS.
Following a dominant campaign with Real Salt Lake in 2009 that saw them win the cup, Rimando anchored a defense in 2010 that can be seen as arguably the greatest in MLS history.
Rimando only allowed 20 goals in 30 matches—an MLS record. Rimando also had 14 clean sheets, and a 0.67 GAA—both rank second all-time in MLS history.
Rimando hasn’t gotten much international experience, with only six appearances. However, due to a standout performance against Panama earlier this year, Rimando is currently the backup to Tim Howard.
-MLS Cup MVP - 2009
-MLS All-Star - 2010
6. Kevin Hartman
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Current Club: FC Dallas
Why: Although he has only appeared in five international matches, Hartman has made a name for himself in between the pipes.
During his 10-year stint with the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy, Hartman was considered one of the best goalkeepers in the league. His outstanding play helped the team reach three MLS Cups, winning two of them—2002 and 2005.
Hartman has set and broken many MLS records including: Most career clean sheets in MLS history (111), first MLS goalkeeper to have consecutive 20-win seasons, most victories in MLS history (179), and the most saves in a MLS game with 12.
His 0.62 GAA in 2010 currently ranks as the best in MLS history.
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - 1999
5. Marcus Hahnemann
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Current Club: Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
Why: A Seattle native, Hahnemann surprised many when he was dubbed the “Best Goalkeeper in Europe” according to the 2010 Castrol rankings for his play with Premier League side Wolverhampton.
Currently 40, Hahnemann has had his ups and downs.
Following his coronation, Hahnemann was dropped for poor play and has recently returned to his hometown club, MLS side Seattle Sounders FC.
He has won nine caps for the U.S. national team, but has served mainly as a backup keeper.
-Castrol's Best Goalkeeper in Europe - 2010
4. Tony Meola
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Last Club: New York Red Bulls
Why: Meola is most notably remembered for leaving soccer to try a career as an NFL placekicker. He would get as far as having a try-out with the New York Jets.
His soccer career was a lot more successful.
Meola made a mark in only his second start for the national team, anchoring the team’s victory in the Marlboro Cup.
The New Jersey native would feature primarily during the World Cup in 1990 and 1994. He was a driving force behind the team’s run to the second round in 1994.
Meola also starred in the MLS, where he played for the NY/NJ MetroStars, Kansas City Wizards and the New York Red Bulls.
His 16 clean sheets in 2000 currently ranks first all-time in MLS history.
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - 2000
3. Tim Howard
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Current Club: Everton (Barclay's Premier League)
Why: When you think of US soccer, you’re hard-pressed not to think of Tim Howard.
His resume includes three World Cups—2002, 2006, and 2010—but he’s most remembered as being a major contributor towards the national team’s surprising run to the round of 16 in 2010.
The 2010 World Cup marked his first as a starting goalkeeper. He worked quickly to assure then-head coach Bob Bradley that he made the right decision, as he was named Man of the Match for his performance against England in a 1-1 draw.
Other international successes include his start in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, in which the U.S. won 2-1 over Mexico. He also was the starter for the team’s 2009 Confederation Cup, where they surprisingly beat Spain—then the No. 1 ranked team in the world—before falling to Brazil in the finals. The achievement earned him the Golden Glove award for best keeper.
But besides his country, Howard is a great asset to his club as well.
After stints with the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) and Manchester United, Howard moved on to his current home at Everton. He has been their starting keeper since 2007.
At Everton, Howard has really grown through the stiffer competition the English Premier League provides. But instead of getting exposed, he has thrived.
Howard set the club’s record for most clean sheets in a season during the 2008-09 campaign. He is also a large reason that Everton currently sit at sole possession of second place in the Premier League this year at 4-1-1 and 13 points.
- MLS Humanitarian of the Year – 2001
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year – 2001
-MLS Best XI – 2001, 2002
-PFA Premier League Team of the Year – 2003-04
-U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year – 2008
-FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Glove – 2009
-MLS All-Star Game MVP – 2009
-Top 10 IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper – 2003, 2009, 2010
2. Brad Friedel
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Current Club: Tottenham (Barclay's Premier League)
Why: Dubbed the “The Human Wall,” Friedel has certainly lived up to that moniker.
The third-most capped goalkeeper in U.S. national team history, Friedel made his name known during the 2002 World Cup when he led the team on a surprising run to the quarterfinals.
The team boasted impressive victories over Portugal and Mexico before falling to eventual runner-up Germany. His performance earned him the award for U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 2002.
Friedel has been successful on the club level as well.
After playing in Denmark, Turkey, and the U.S., Friedel finally landed in the English Premier League in 1997. He has played for Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, and his current club, Tottenham.
At 41, Friedel is the oldest player to ever make an appearance in the Premier League.
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year – 1997
-Alan Hardaker Trophy – 2002
-U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year – 2002
-PFA Premier League Team of the Year – 2002-03
-Barclays Merit Award – 2008-09
-IFFHS Best Goalkeepers of the 21st Century: 30th
1. Kasey Keller
George Frey/Getty Images
Last Club: Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
Why: How many goalkeepers can say they've had a song created about them?
Keller announced himself to the world in 1998, when he arguably single-handedly led the U.S. national team to a 1-0 victory over then-defending World Champions Brazil. Keller recorded 10 saves in what many have said to be the single greatest game by a goalkeeper in U.S. history.
A three-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, Keller led the U.S. to CONCACAF gold in 2005. He followed that up by recording five consecutive shutouts in the team’s final round of World Cup qualifying. His impressive play led him to be named the starting goalkeeper for the team’s 2006 World Cup team.
Keller has been a regular in four different leagues around the world. His playing career includes notable stints at Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, Borussia Monchengladbach, Fulham, and the Seattle Sounders.
-Honda Player of the Year – 1999, 2005
-U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year – 1997, 1999, 2005
-MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - 2011