To the surprise of virtually no one, goalkeeper Tim Howard has been voted the 2014 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year. Howard beat out five teammates, including three time winner Clint Dempsey, to win the honor for the second time, the first being in 2008.
Howard was favored to win the award, largely based on his 15 save performance against Belgium, in a 2-1 loss. The Everton number one becomes the fifth player to win Male Athlete of the Year at least twice, joining defender Marcelo Balboa (1992, 1994), goalkeeper Kasey Keller (1997, 1999 and 2005), forward Landon Donovan (2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010) and forward Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011 and 2012).
The award was presented live to Howard this afternoon on ESPN’s SportsCenter with Howard saying, “It’s an honor. I know the winners on the list who have come before me, so it’s special to have my name up there.” “The whole ride with the team for about a month and a half, when we got together for training camp and we flew down to Brazil, we had a really good time and that made 2014 so special to me.”
At 35 Howard became something of a media and social media hero following his performance against Belgium, inspiring a series of internet memes titled Things Tim Howard Could Save.
The voting was done in a new manner this year, with votes coming from U.S. MNT players capped in 2014, U.S. MNT and Youth National Team coaches, Major League Soccer and North American Soccer League head coaches and select former players, administrators and media members.
Howard won handily with 64 percent of the votes, followed by Jermaine Jones (19 percent) and Kyle Beckerman (11 percent). Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson, and Alejandro Bedoya were the other finalists.
Howard reached several U.S. national team milestones this year, becoming the Yanks all-time leader in career wins with 55, and goalkeeper appearances with 104, passing Keller for both marks.
Former Cosmos and U.S. MNT midfielder Rick Davis won the inaugural U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year award in 1984.
U.S. Soccer also released its unveiled its nominees for 2014 Young Male Athlete of the Year, Young Female Athlete of the Year and Disabled Athlete of the Year. The nominees in each category are:
Young Male Athlete of the Year Nominees: Mukwelle Akale, midfielder; Emerson Hyndman, midfielder; Christian Pulisic, midfielder; Haji Wright, forward; DeAndre Yedlin, defender.
Young Female Athlete of the Year Nominees: Morgan Brian, midfielder; Rose Lavelle, midfielder; Samantha Mewis, midfielder; Mallory Pugh, midfielder; Katelyn Rowland, goalkeeper
Disabled Athlete of the Year Nominees: Meghan Maiwald, Deaf Soccer; Natalie Russo, Power Soccer; Gavin Sibayan, Paralympic Soccer
The nominees for U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year will be named in the next several days.