Against Belgium, the United States' Tim Howard kept the ball out of the net with slides, dives and leaps. But he couldn't do it forever, and the American men's national team fell 2-1 in extra time. It was just his last, best effort at a World Cup to remember.
Star goalkeeper Tim Howard is taking a one-year break from the U.S. national team because of a "commitment" to his family.
The three-time World Cup veteran asked U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to not consider him for the roster until September 2015. The 35-year-old Howard will continue to play for Everton in the English Premier League.
"Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time," Howard said in a statement Thursday. "It's the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with. So I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot."
Howard starred in this year's World Cup in Brazil, particularly in a second-round 2-1 loss to Belgium in which he made 15 saves.
He is United States' career leader for goalkeepers in appearances (104) and wins (55). He has played every minute for the U.S. in the last two World Cups. The main event he will miss is the Gold Cup next summer.
"I totally understand Tim's situation," said Klinsmann, who spoke extensively with Howard about the decision. "He was very straightforward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that.
"I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back."
Howard's backup on the national team is Brad Guzan, who also plays in the EPL for Aston Villa. Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando was the third 'keeper at the World Cup.
Klinsmann sees plenty of opportunity for the other goalies to prove themselves.
''Always when somebody steps aside for a moment," Klinsmann said, "it gives an opportunity for the next ones in line."