European soccer returned to Goodison Park this week after an absence of more than four years. Everton celebrated with a 4-1 victory over the German side Wolfsburg in a Europa League match.
The score flattered Everton. It was achieved on the strength of Tim Howard, the U.S. goalkeeper whose performance in the World Cup had some liberals lobbying to rename Ronald Reagan Airport after him.
In his signature match against Belgium, Howard saved 16 shots (if memory serves) in 120 minutes. Against Wolfsburg, he was credited with 12 saves in 90 minutes, at least four of which were from the top drawer.
Several of Howard’s saves on Thursday came at the expense of Kevin De Bruyne. Howard also victimized De Bruyne in the Belgium match, though the blond winger scored in extra time.
Two other attackers who played for Belgium against the U.S. — Romulu Lukaku (who scored Belgium’s other goal) and Kevin Mirallas — were on Howard’s side in the Wolfsburg match. Mirallas scored one and was involved in creating another. Other than Howard, he was arguably our best player on the night. Lukaku was less impressive, but had his moments.
Everton is playing dynamic, attacking soccer under Roberto Martinez. But we need to tighten up the defense. Tim Howard can’t bail us out of every match, as we saw when Chelsea put six past him a few weeks ago.