Let the career celebration begin for goalie Tim Howard when the Colorado Rapids open their 2019 season on Saturday night against the Portland Timbers at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
The 39-year-old Howard, a star for the United States in the 2014 World Cup who played 121 matches on the U.S. National Team from 2002-17, announced in January that his 23rd season as a professional, and fourth with the Rapids, would be his last.
Howard, who had previous stops with Everton and Manchester United in the English Premier League, as well as with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the MLS, has compiled a regular season record of 21-34-19 with 18 shutouts in his career with the Rapids.
"This is something that's been on my radar for a number of years now," said Howard, who turns 40 on Wednesday. "I knew the length of the contract (with the Rapids) would take me to 40. It seemed like the right time."
Howard said he wanted to make the announcement before the season so that it wouldn't become a distraction once the season begins.
"This is far from a farewell tour, that was never my intention," Howard said. "I didn't want any rumors to start. I wanted it out of the way."
Colorado finished 11th in the 12-team Western Conference last season with just 31 points, 18 points behind sixth-place Real Salt Lake which garnered the final playoff spot. But Howard believes Colorado has a chance to return to the postseason in his swan song.
"I think this will be the most talented team in Rapids history, probably more talented than the team that won the MLS Cup in 2010," he said.
That makes Saturday night's opener with the Timbers, who lost to Atlanta United 2-0 in last season's MLS Cup final, a good barometer of just how much Colorado has improved.
Portland brings back the majority of its squad including star midfielders Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara. Valeri and Blanco tied for the team lead with 10 goals each while Chara is one of the league's top central midfielders.
The Timbers, who finished fifth in the regular season with 54 points before making their playoff run to the final, face the daunting task of playing their first 12 games on the road due to construction at Providence Park.
"This group has been doing really well," second-year head coach Giovanni Savarese told the Portland Oregonian. "I think one of the best things is how united everybody is."