I was a little put out at the negative response towards Howard after the Guatemala capitalized their free kick that ended up tying the game 1-1. The response wasn't overwhelming, to be honest, and I suppose there's always going to be harsh opinions floating around on the web but I was still annoyed with it nonetheless. People are always quick to blame a goalkeeper but strikers are continually let off the hook for not finishing chances. This fueled my inner lawyer and plus who doesn't like to do recreational math during the summer?
Before I go all Sports Science on you guys, let me say that while I do believe that Tim Howard is the obvious number one goalkeeper for us I do believe he is able to make mistakes. I talked about it in the Brazil game and, while I haven't written a review, he basically fell out of the way of the Antigua and Barbuda goal. I thought he looked sharp for the Canada game and even against Guatemala he was looking good. I'm having trouble finding a decent enough highlight reel but he had a point blank save just prior to the goal that kept the game 1-0.
There will be a time where another goalie will fill his void but for now he's our number one.
Moving on, let's examine the play. In about one fourth speed it looks like Tim Howard lazily watches a free kick enter the goalmouth only two steps away from him. You can see it here.
Howard sets up his wall pretty well. Front and back post are covered. To score, Guatemala's Marco Pappa can only hit about a fifth of the goal. Still dangerous but not a PK. The only negative here is that Howard can't see the ball when the shot is taken. There's some movement prior to the kick and he ends up leaning to his right to get a better view. (You can see his head lean in the third picture.) This slight movement, I believe, stops him from making the save.
The shot covers 19.56 yards in about .8 seconds. This puts it around 50 mph. Not the fastest shot ever but still a decent blast. Howard can't react until he sees the ball and the ball doesn't become visible until it rises right over the wall, about 10.67 yards from goal.
This cuts Howard's reaction time to .436 seconds. Now some dimensions...
A squared plus B squared equals saving a shot squared. Howard's hands are a little low in the picture but they should be around 3'3" from the ground. (Luckily I am Howard's height so this was easy to figure out.) I assumed two inches from the bar was adequate to save the shot and with some more math I figured out he has to move his hands 68.6 inches to save the ball, or 5 feet 8.6 inches. To cover the distance in the allotted time (.436 seconds) he has to move at 8.94 mph, which should mean nothing to anyone because who knows how fast hands move on average. I don't.
I measured a spot 5' 8.6" from my own roof and timed myself on moving my hands the distance. On average I did it in .3 seconds (my poor iPhone doesn't do hundredths). Some times I did it in .2 but I felt like I jumped the gun those times. And it was about 8 out of 10 times I got .3 so that felt accurate. We can trust my reaction speed because of my stellar goalkeeping record (check out "most losses").
So Howard had .436 seconds to make a reaction save that would take around .3 seconds. But this doesn't take into account a couple of other things. It's pretty easy to move your hands 6 feet when you know the exact destination ahead of time and you have all the time to prepare yourself. Howard is being forced into a reflex save and doesn't know when it's coming or where it's going. The ball is also bending away from Howard so maybe getting a couple of fingers on it isn't enough. Also he'd be going up with his left hand, his weak hand. Taking all of these things into account, Howard could have saved it but can we expect a save at least 50% of the time there (aka a save he should make)? I don't think so. I would have loved to see Howard make any step except backwards into his goal but demanding perfection every time is unreasonable. Maybe he set too many people in the wall that ended up blocking his vision which delayed his reflex. I saw this tweet...
Just saw Pappa's goal from last nite. Howard yelled at Altidore 4 times to tell him he couldn't see an Jozy didn't move. #stupidplayer
— David Aneser (@The_Real_DA) June 13, 2012
Tough to say. The funny thing is that most people who are expecting a save could only respond to "What could he have done better?" with "Well just save it. It's right there." There's hardly any legitimate critique of the play.
Had Howard saved the shot everyone would have gone bonkers, anyway.