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Matarazzo helps Münster escape relegation zone in Regionalliga Nord.

Berhalter has surgery for broken nose, cheekbone.

McBride scores two goals to lead Fulham past Bolton 2-0.

Manchester United fans want Howard to start in FA Cup final.

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Americans Abroad

Howard becomes first American to win FA Cup in Man. United's triumph.

Tim Howard
Tim Howard (top) appears to be enjoying the moment after he became the first American to win the FA Cup final in Manchester United's 3-0 romp over Millwall.
-- Manchester United web site photo --
By Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)
SoccerTimes

(Saturday, May 22, 2004) -- Tim Howard professes that a year ago he didn't know what the FA Cup was. Today, the goalkeeper is the first American to wear a Cup winner's medal.

Howard didn't have to work all that hard to take home his hardware. Before 71,350 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, he was not required to make a save as powerful Manchester United rolled 3-0 over Millwall, which finished 10th in the First Division.

"For me, it is awesome to win a Cup and get a medal in my first year," Howard told Associated Press. "It is a good feeling, better than advertised."

Howard, who in his first Premier League season was named England's best keeper by Professional Footballer's Association, didn't face a shot to save, fielding a series of crosses from a Millwall team that did little to worry him. Howard was removed in the 84th minute by Roy Carroll who had replaced a slumping Howard for six games late in the season.

"In the end it looked simple, but it wasn't in the first half, certainly," Howard told BBC TV. "Today was all about professionalism and making sure we did the job properly."

Howard's best play came in the 25th minute when he elevated to punch away a corner kick just before it found the head of a Millwall attacker. The corner resulted after a weak clearance by Howard caused the United defense a moment of consternation. Millwall's Peter Sweeney passed to Tim Cahill, but he was tackled by United defender Mikael Silvestre with the ball rolling over the end line.

Otherwise, Howard was quick and confident when needed, ably handling three crosses into his box.

The FA Cup trophy provided a measure of satisfaction for United after finishing a disappointing third in the Premier League, 15 points behind champion Arsenal, and being eliminated in the European Champions League by Porto of Portugal in the Round of 16.

It was a weak effort on a shot by Howard, giving up a rebound that Porto converted into the series' decisive tally, and a 4-1 loss to crosstown rival Manchester City that sent Howard to the bench. He worked his way back to start the final four league matches.

Midfielder John Harkes was the first American to play in an FA Cup title match in Sheffield Wednesday's 2-1 replay loss to Arsenal in 1993. Harkes also became the first player from the United States to play in the League Cup final that year with Sheffield again losing 2-1 to Arsenal in the championship game.

Two U.S. goalkeepers were on the winning sides in the League Cup, England's second-tier Cup competition. Kasey Keller recorded the clean sheet in 1997 when Leicester City prevailed 1-0 over Middlesbrough in a replayed final. Brad Friedel led Blackburn Rovers to a 2-1 triumph in the 2002 title game over Tottenham Hotspur which had Keller in net.

Friedel preceded Howard, becoming the first American to be named England's best keeper in 2003.

Nineteen-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo put United ahead 1-0 with a header of a cross from defender Gary Neville who had been spotted on the overlap by midfielder Roy Keane.

"I think the goal just before halftime really settled us down and we gave Millwall more problems in the second half," Howard told BBC TV. "But (Millwall) made it very difficult for us."

In the 65th minute, United midfielder Ryan Giggs was taken down in full stride in the box by Millwall midfielder David Livermore. Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had failed on three of his last five penalty kicks, drilled this one home for a 2-0 advantage.

Sixteen minutes later, van Nistelrooy finished from close range after taking a pass from Giggs. Though many felt the play to be offside, the score still became 3-0.

"I don't think we were outstanding (today), but Ronaldo, Giggsy and Ruud produced really good moments for us," said Howard who was acquired from Major League Soccer's MetroStars before the English season for an approximate $4 million transfer fee. "Particularly Ronaldo. I thought he was outstanding today. I think he can be a world-class player, right up with the very top players in the world. He's only 19 and to come here with this massive price tag on his head, he's done sensationally well this season for us."

Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes' managing editor. E-mail Gary Davidson.

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