What It’s Like Playing Against Lionel Messi In Real-Time, According To The Best U.S. Soccer Goalie Ever

CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

If you just woke up from a 20 year coma and the first thing you did was join an indoor men’s soccer league, you may be tempted to pick Lionel Messi right before the guy in Teva sandals who reeks of Newport menthols.

The sorry thing is, no one could fault you for it.

At 5-foot-7, Messi could just as well be a really serviceable HVAC repair expert or one of those guys who wears earmuffs on airport runways.

Instead, he is on the Mount Rushmore of greats in the most popular sport on the planet. God has a sense of humor.

Tim Howard, the greatest goalkeeper in American soccer history, joined our Endless Hustle podcast to detail his two memorable matchups with the Atomic Flea,

“I would imagine it’s like watching LeBron James.

Like when I see LeBron I’m like, ‘He’s in the post, why don’t you just put your elbow in his back?’

And then you see him and I imagine those guys feel it and are like, ‘Whoa, when did Hercules get on the court?’

Messi on tape looks really fast and really tricky and really slick, and then you get in the game and it’s multiplied by 10, and you’re like, ‘This is impossible.’

He shoots, he’s kind of diminutive, he’s not very big and you watch him shoot the ball and you’re like, ‘Just save that thing.’

And then you get out there and he’s rifling it as if he’s 6-foot-4. You think, ‘Where does that come from?’

A funny story is we had this great game plan. We’re going to bottle him up. We’re going to get two players around him at all times and one’s going to step tight and all this.

The whistle blew and he was like Super Mario with the star. No one could get near him and the game plan went out the window in minute two.

So, yeah, he’s special.”

If you didn’t have time to read all that, Tim’s words can be summed up perfectly in one photo.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

^^^ My face when someone rifles off three work emails before 9 am.


Listen to the fascinating full interview with Tim Howard below (starts at 49:40 mark).  

We discuss: 

  • LeBron James as a soccer player
  • Playing with Tourette’s and OCD
  • The bright future of American soccer.

Subscribe and listen to the Endless Hustle below, and follow us on Twitter @Endless__Hustle.



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Matt’s love of writing was born during a sixth grade assembly when it was announced that his essay titled “Why Drugs Are Bad” had taken first prize in D.A.R.E.’s grade-wide contest. The anti-drug people gave him a $50 savings bond for his brave contribution to crime-fighting, and upon the bond’s maturity 10 years later, he used it to buy his very first bag of marijuana.