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Howard Ready to Raise Standards in New Memphis Role

By Staff, 01/10/20, 11:04AM EST


U.S. Soccer legend following footsteps of former World Cup teammates Bocanegra, Reyna

Former United States Men's National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard was named as Sporting Director of the Champioship's Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday. | Photo courtesy Memphis 901 FC

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It could have been easy for former U.S. Men’s National Team legend Tim Howard to go easily into retirement, provide a guiding hand to the front office as a minority owner of the USL Championship’s Memphis 901 FC and enjoy his post-playing career.

But then, that just wouldn’t be in the character of the man who reached the top of the game for both club and country, would it?

Instead, Howard’s official appointment as 901 FC’s Sporting Director arrived on Wednesday afternoon and with it a new set of goals for the 40-year-old as he moves into the next stage of his career.

“I had a playing career that I’m proud of, a legacy that I’ve been able to leave behind that I’m very proud of, but now I’m moving forward, and I want to be great at something else. That’s how I look at it,” Howard told the Daily Memphian’s John Varlas. “I don’t want to be looked at as a former player who’s doing this. I want to be looked at as an executive that’s having success. That will take time. But I’m determined to do it.”

Howard is far from the first of his generation of U.S. Men’s National Team players to move into the sport’s executive suite. His United States teammate at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Carlos Bocanegra, has been integral to the success of Atlanta United FC since joining the club upon its launch in 2015, while the captain of that side Claudio Reyna has served as Sporting Director at New York City FC between 2013 and late last year before joining Austin FC in the same role.

The success of those two former players provides a partial model for Howard as he looks to take Memphis to the next level in its second season in the Championship. But as you’d expect, the former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper has his own ideas on how a club should be run, how it should feel, that he is bringing to 901 FC.

“I say this to you not arrogantly; I know what a good football club looks like,” Howard told Varlas. “I say that because of been on some bad ones, and I’ve been on some good ones. Knowing what a good football club looks like and actually executing it, two different things. But I have a vision of what I want our club to be.”

Memphis 901 FC was backed by one of the most passionate fanbases in the USL Championship in its inaugural season, now Sporting Director Tim Howard is looking to build a team to match. | Photo courtesy Memphis 901 FC

That vision includes bringing more versatility to the roster, and stronger locker room leadership for the club’s second season. Nine players returned from the 23-player roster that ended the 2019 season in Memphis, with reinforcements set to start being announced soon that include players that have served as captains at prior stops.

In Howard’s eyes, when it all takes shape it should be a squad capable of competing for a place in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs, and begins a virtuous cycle where Memphis is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Louisville City FC, Indy Eleven, Phoenix Rising FC and the rest of the league’s elite.

“The idea with this year’s team — and again, nothing gets done on paper, nothing gets done in the boardroom — but this current team we’re putting together should be a playoff team,” Howard told Varlas. “If we don’t, it would be a disappointment.

“And that’s not to heap pressure on the team; it’s simply the facts. Because ultimately, the goal is to be competing for an Eastern Conference championship. The only way to do that is to be in playoffs every single year. And then you start getting home game in the playoffs and beating those good teams … so that’s the goal.”

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