Tim Howard had a memorable debut for the MetroStars in 1998. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

Today is the final game of his illustrious soccer career. Here is FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis’ story that was published in Soccer New York. It is used with permission. Ironically, the opponent was the Colorado Rapids.

By Michael Lewis

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The two most important messages rookie goalkeeper Tim Howard received Aug. 18 came from a pair of World Cup veterans before and after the MetroStars recorded a 4-1 triumph over the Colorado Rapids.

The first was sent from midfielder Tab Ramos during the pregame huddle.

“This is mot the most important game you’re going to play,” Ramos said he told the 19-year-old Howard. “I just felt he needed to know the team was behind him and let him know we had as much confidence in his as we did in Tony.”

Howard, making his Major League Soccer debut, then went on to play like a grizzled veteran, making five saves in the rain before an announced crowd of 10,217 at Giants Stadium.

The second message came after the game, but it was just as important. Taped to Howard’s locker was: “Tim, Great Job. Had to Go. Tony Meola.”

“I’m going to save that, for sure, said Howard, a standout for the U.S. Under-20 national team. “It meant a lot for me for him to say that. The guy was very, very supportive, more than I expected. And I got a win. It’s unbelievable.”

Meola was reduced to a spectator at the game due to his one-game suspension for arguing with referee Robert Sheker during and after the MetroStars’ 3-1 loss at the Miami Fusion Saturday. Meola also was fined $1,500.

Forward Eduardo Hurtado, who had a goal and an assist Aug. 18, and midfielder Marcelo Vega each were fined $250. Midfielder Miles Joseph and defender Mike Duhaney were fined $100 apiece.

“I don’t agree with the decision,” Meola said in a statement. “But the league gave me my options and my best option was to just accept my fine and sit my suspension out as early as possible and get into the lineup.”

Howard made the most of his opportunity as his best save came when he blocked Wolde Harris’s attempt from point-blank range with three minutes left.

“He stepped in in a pressure situation and came up huge,” said MetroStars coach Alfonso Mondelo, who set a club record with 14 wins in a season. “I think you saw the potential this man has.”

The victory, which insured the MetroStars (14-11, 38 points) second place in the Eastern Conference over the Columbus Crew (11-12, 33) regardless how the Crew fared in D.C. Saturday, included a number of milestones.

Ramos scored his first goal of the season, 12-yarder in the 27th minute. Hurtado assisted on the Ramos goal and became the fourth player this season to break the 10-10 barrier with 10 goals and 15 assists. Giovanni Savarese added to his team-high 12-goal total by connecting twice in the final three minutes.

Here’s a related story you might be interested in:

OFFSIDE REMARKS: Tim Howard, an appreciation