May 30, 2012
The student (Howard) applauds the mentor (Meola)
By Michael Lewis
|Tim Howard on Tony Meola: As an 18-year-old kid, I knew nothing about professional sport. . . . He really looked after me. I owe him a ton."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
LANDOVER, Md. -- Tim Howard won't be able to attend Tony Meola's induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame at Fed Ex Field on Wednesday.
He will be with the rest of his American teammates preparing for their international friendly against Brazil slated for several hours later at that same stadium.
The U.S. National Team goalkeeper, however, will be at the ceremony in spirit. After all, Meola was his mentor when he was an 18-year-old rookie on the MetroStars in 1998.
Howard said he got an opportunity to congratulate Meola on Tuesday.
"I said to him, 'He deserves it.' He was awesome," Howard said. "As an 18-year-old kid, I knew nothing about professional sports and he took me under his wing. I was his roommate. He took me around, trained with me in the off-season. He really looked after me. I owe him a ton.
"When you're a kid, he was the face of U.S. Soccer -- him and Tab, John and Alexi. Those were the guys. You wanted to be those guys. They put us on the map. From my generation, watching those guys, it was like a lifelong dream when I got to play with the MetroStars and play with him. Just an incredible, incredible athlete. No one deserves it more than him. I'm so proud he got this honor."
Meola, who played in two World Cups and made 100 appearances with the U.S. National Team, will be inducted along with former U.S. international captain and midfielder Claudio Reyna, ex-U.S. National Team defender Desmond Armstrong and one-time U.S. women's national coach Tony DiCicco.
It was because of Meola that Howard got his first professional start in 1998. Meola was suspended and Howard, then a rookie, was inserted into the MetroStars lineup in what turned into a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at Giants Stadium.
"Leading up to that game that week he was awesome," Howard said. He was the first one to come off the field at Giants Stadium. He's in the tunnel, high five and hugging me. I was like his little brother. He looked after me. It was awesome."