He is the best soccer player in the history of the United States, so good, so vital and so much on top of his game that coach Jurgen Klinsmann, whose arrogance knows no bounds and disdain for soccer in America is palpable, would dare not think of taking a team to the World Cup without him.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard stands tall for the USA.

Howard is the No. 1 reason the Yanks have a chance to stone Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, survive the Group of Death and make noise in the World Cup.

With nothing but love for Landon Donovan, Marcelo Balboa and all the U.S. stalwarts through the years, Howard is the greatest soccer player ever to wear a red, white and blue kit.

And it's not even close. Howard has earned 101 caps for the U.S. national team. He has made nearly 350 appearances in the English Premier League for Everton and Manchester United. Even Klinsmann lauds Howard as one of the five best keepers in the world.

The fearless nature of the U.S. squad begins with Howard.

"We have always been a good team who rally around each other and who is not afraid to go toe to toe with a giant," Howard said in a recent interview with CBS News.


Although Ronaldo is suffering from knee tendinitis, if the two-time world player of the year can stay on the pitch for 90 minutes, he is fully capable of scoring all the goals Portugal needs to beat the USA by himself.

While the snub of Donovan got all the attention heading into the World Cup, he was never going to be the key to the Yanks advancing past pool play. For this U.S. team, it's all about the back line. Here's all the technical soccer knowledge you need to have about America's defense: It stinks.

That's precisely why Howard is so essential for the USA. Against Portugal, Howard can erase teammates' mistakes, be as big as "Memo" Ochoa was in goal for Mexico against Brazil and make room on the soccer bandwagon for millions of Americans.

The Group of Death was exactly what a team that plays better as an underdog needed. Nobody has less to lose and more to gain than Howard.