The United States was eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday night in the round of 16, but even in defeat, Tim Howard may have earned himself a statue in the nation's capital.
Facing a never-ending Belgium onslaught for 120 minutes, the veteran American goalkeeper tallied an amazing 16 saves. According to ESPN's Paul Carr and Arash Markazi, that total is the most ever recorded for a World Cup game:
Tim Howard's 16 saves are the most ever by a goalkeeper in recorded World Cup history.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 1, 2014
As Goal.com's Ives Galarcep noted, Howard was named Man of the Match, despite the final 2-1 losing result:
Howard named FIFA Man of the Match in defeat. Couldn't be anyone else today really. Lukaku changed the game for Belgium, DeBruyne great too— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 1, 2014
Alas, despite the record-setting performance, he could only focus on the disappointing defeat:
Tim Howard: "We dreamed and again, we fell short of our dreams."— Rick Maese (@RickMaese) July 1, 2014
Nevertheless, it was a heroic effort from the 35-year-old. Struggling to keep possession in the midfield, the United States defense was on its back heels for much of the game. The back line continued to be pushed closer and closer to Howard, and the talented Belgians fired off an astounding 39 shots.
SportsNation joked about the sieve-like defense in front of Howard:
Tim Howard coulda used a LITTLE help from his teammates today... pic.twitter.com/zpT2Fyxe31— SportsNation (@SportsNation) July 1, 2014
While his defense often let him down, Howard came through time and time again. His positioning was sublime, consistently turning one-on-one battles into difficult angles for the Belgians. Many of his 16 saves came via his feet when he established a wide base, and all of his parries were sent out of danger—unlike the one that resulted in Thomas Mueller's goal last week.
Ultimately, there was nothing he could have done about Belgium's two goals in extra time, and WhoScored.com awarded Howard with a perfect match rating of 10. That's pretty unheard of, especially in a loss, but it's well deserved.
Tim Howard: Is just the second player in World Cup 2014 to receive a perfect 10 rating in a match; the other being Oscar (vs Croatia) #usa— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 1, 2014
Howard was Superman, Batman and Spider-Man rolled all into one, and many were quick to dole out praise in his direction:
Gotta take my hat off to my boy Tim Howard!! What an outstanding game. Proud of him.— Michael Strahan (@michaelstrahan) July 1, 2014
We have the best goal keeper in the world @TimHowardGK— Eddie Johnson (@eddie_johnson7) July 1, 2014
Heck, even Belgian center back Vincent Kompany, not long after the final whistle blew, offered words of respect:
Back in April, Howard told ESPNFC.com that he will retire after his current contract with Everton ends following the 2017-18 campaign. It's unclear if that means he'll play in the 2018 World Cup, which would begin just a few months following the conclusion of that season.
If this was his World Cup swan song, however, there aren't many better ways to go out for one of the best players ever to don the red, white and blue shirt.