“That’s my job so I was able to do a lot of that last night,” he added. "I know for me, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough but we nearly did it and I couldn’t be prouder of this team."
With his epic saves, Howard became an overnight hero to Americans who took to the Internet to praise their new favorite professional athlete. Howard’s face was superimposed on Mt. Rushmore and on coins, his name added to the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s Wikipedia page and a White House petition arose to rename Ronald Reagan National Airport after Howard.
"I have not seen any of that but that’s quite funny,” Howard said from the team’s hotel in Brazil, noting that he had just woken up.
Howard said the entire U.S. team did notice, however, the support from Americans who watched the game in crowds of hundreds and thousands back home and those who made the trip to Brazil.
“We were motivated by that. We were inspired. It gave us hope,” said the New Jersey native. “It gave us recognition that we were doing it for more than ourselves and it was special.”
Those same Team USA fans cringed in unison when Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne finally beat Howard in the third minute of extra time and Romelu Lukaku scored 12 minutes later to give Belgium the win.
Howard described himself and his teammates as disappointed by the game's outcome, but feeling like they are leaving the 2014 World Cup with their heads held high.
“We couldn’t have given anymore,” Howard said. “We played four phenomenal games and, you know, last night everybody gave everything they had and sometimes you don’t win but we’re proud of ourselves.”
Howard extended his contract in April with English club side Everton until 2018 –- a year that marks his 39th birthday and, coincidentally, the next World Cup.
While longtime and newly-discovered USA soccer fans are already looking ahead to that World Cup, in Russia, Howard said it feels, “a lifetime away.”
“Right now I’m still very emotional from the game,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure what’s what and let the dust settle. Spend some time with my kids.”
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