Howard v. Costa Rica - WCQ - 09.06.13


Starter: Tim Howard
Bench: Brad Guzan
Not in 18: Nick Rimando

Guzan continues his backup role and Rimando did well enough in the Gold Cup to earn the third string nod.

Eighty seconds into the game a ball bounces past the defense and finds Bryan Ruiz running through the 18. The ball is bouncing erratically so by the time Ruiz gains control he finds himself in a 1v1 with Howard eight yards out. Ruiz doesn't hit it well, right at Howard's stomach. Howard, probably on pins and needles to see a 1v1 this early in the game, falls to his left and has to reach back to cover the area he just vacated.

Howard makes a cat-like swipe at the ball to catch the top of it and send it out for a corner kick. A sturdy goalkeeper catches this in the bread basket and falls forward but shaky legs will get a keeper a'guessin'. A save is a save but Howard could have played this better although it wouldn't be uncommon to see a goalkeeper completely misplay this.

2' save +.05

Oof. Foreshadowing comes to fruition on the corner kick from Howard's misplay. The cross is driven in low and flicked at Beasley covering the near post. It's a 50-50 call on coming for the ball because it is close to the goal but it's in a crowd and driven in with enough pace that it's not 100% certain he could connect with the ball. And obviously we don't want a goalie leaving his line if he's not going to touch the ball.

Now, a goalkeeper has to trust his teammates to some extent. If a defender is blocking part of the goal, it'd be foolish not to trust him and welcome the recently shrunken goal area. Imagine a wall on a free kick. You have to line up assuming they have a large part of the goal covered. The same principle is in play here as Beasley is on the front post. However what I don't like is the line up in the goal. Because of Howard's positioning, Beasley is the only player who can cut off a near post shot because Howard can't dive through DMB. If he does, maybe Howard knocks the ball back into play and the two watch the rebound pop back in over their tackled bodies. Who knows. Ideally, Howard needs to step a bit more forward while DMB scooches back a bit. This way Howard can dive in front of the post and DMB to make the save and DMB can head to clear if Howard fails.

The ball is flicked on by Johnny Acosta and Beas Machine is the only man who can make a play on the ball because Howard is not far enough forward. If Howard dives along the orange line, he ends up in the goal. But if he steps forward to the red line he can make the save.

The shot looks too quick for Beasley to get his head on it but because he is gripping the post with his hand he has frozen his feet. (This is an important lesson for postmen to learn. Pin your arms tight against your side or behind your back to avoid a handball call and have your heels in the goal with your toes on the line. This way you can attack the ball by moving forward, be on your toes, and not get in the goalies way.)

I'm not knocking Howard for coming out but he does need to take a forward step to cut the angle down.

3' goal -.15 (positioning)
3' goal +1.00 (shot)

Things got even worse in the tenth minute when Costa Rica implemented this new strategy of shoving our players in the back to stop them from jumping.

Beasley can't fight through the triple team and the ball bounces past Howard for the second goal. You can watch Howard's right foot. (I would take pictures but it's so minute it's hard to see in still shots. You'll just have to watch for yourself.) He goes to plant but as the ball comes off Borges' head Howard turns to run parallel with the goal line instead of going for the first save. Unfortunately, Howard quickly realizes that it's out of his reach and does that weird slide onto his shins. If he dives out as the ball is closest to his body he can make the save instead of a lunging, running jump towards the back post.

The camera angle is misleading for the keeper because as it crosses the line it looks like it's close to Howard. Well, no, the ball is on the other side of the goal.

10' goal +.65

Lastly, the goal every is ripping Howard for. At first glance you see Campbell's first touch being a yard from outside the 18 and you scream "Where was Howard???"

Trying to recreate the setting is tricky because there are a lot of moving pieces. The bounce of the ball hangs up a bit more here while a less soggy field would let the ball run to the goalkeeper. Howard is trying to read the play but he has to be weary of a chip or dribble around. So as he is scooting back he can't tell if Besler is going to be able to make the play or where the ball is going to drop.

It ends up dying outside the 18 so a pick up is out of question and Campbell's speed makes Howard hang back. It's somewhat of the perfect storm. Speedy striker, odd bounce, defender still in play... I'm not upset at Howard's decision to stay home. Yes, he could have reached the ball but his choice is understandable. It wasn't extremely clear if Howard could have gotten to the ball first and Besler is still in the picture. Howard is confident in his 1v1 skills so he takes the gamble.

What is not understandable is the three foot wide five hole Howard gifts Campbell. This is unacceptable. You want to be big as a goalkeeper, yes, but not at the cost of giving away gaps in your body. Close the gate and don't be afraid to step towards the ball so you're attacking it instead of waiting on it.

77' goal: +.65


2' save +.05
3' goal -.15 (positioning)
3' goal +1.00 (shot)
10' goal +.65
77' goal: +.65

3 goals: -3

GSAR: -0.8

Howard follows his Bosnia performance with a -0.80 GSAR on the day. It's not a bad enough performance to warrant a Guzan chant but Howard can perform better.