When the Colorado Rapids take on the New York Red Bulls Saturday at 2 p.m., the game will have extra meaning for goalkeeper Tim Howard. Whether or not he plays, the game is a return to the club where Howard began his long and illustrious career.
Back in 1998, at the young age of 19, Howard joined a club called the New York MetroStars of the 5-year-old Major League Soccer league. He played there for six years before being signed by European giants Manchester United. Not long after he left, the MetroStars underwent an ownership change and rebranded as the New York Red Bulls.
The league and the Red Bulls have changed dramatically since Howard played for the MetroStars. So much, in fact, that Howard said the team is an entirely different one from the one he knew.
“The team that I played for doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a different franchise,” Howard told reporters earlier in the week. “It’s great to see. For me, Red Bull Arena in and of itself is quite amazing, because I was there in the days that they were trying to buy that land and it kept getting off track. For it to actually happen is impressive.”
Saturday it’s not only a professional homecoming for Howard; it’s a personal one as well. Howard didn’t only play in New York (technically New Jersey), he grew up in the area. He was born and raised in North Brunswick, New Jersey, less than an hour’s drive from where the Red Bulls play.
It’s unknown as of Friday afternoon whether Howard will play Saturday, but he has traveled with the team. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni said at practice that it’s possible that Howard gets the start. Marco Cummings reported that Howard played a simulated game on Sunday, and Mastroeni said that it comes down to how Howard feels on game-day.
What is known for sure is that Howard will receive a hero’s welcome if he ends up in net against his former club.