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Howard’s MLS move signals changing of guard at Everton; What’s next?

Everton v Sunderland - Premier League

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Joel Robles (C) of Everton prepares to come on after team-mate Tim Howard was sent off during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Sunderland at Goodison Park on December 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

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Tim Howard is leaving Everton to go home to the United States and play in an MLS quite different from the one he left in 2003.

At that time, he was a 24-year-old goalkeeper just breaking into the USMNT. Now, he’s a 37-year-old World Cup hero who’s won an FA Cup, a League Cup and three CONCACAF Goalkeeper of the Year awards.

[ MORE: Howard moving to Colorado | Donovan back GK for Olympics ]

The long-rumored move is fine for Howard, who will wrap up his career on a three-year deal with the Colorado Rapids. He’ll join national teammate Jermaine Jones and exciting attacker Shkelzen Gashi in helping Pablo Mastroeni’s side try to reclaim its playoff mettle.

Howard had fallen behind 25-year-old Joel Robles in the Everton pecking order and --having won a job from French legend Fabian Barthez at Manchester United -- will understand that anyone can lose a gig. And perhaps he really was ready to come back to the United States regardless of what Everton wanted to offer him.

Chairman Bill Kenwright called Howard the “
perfect Blue”, while Everton boss Roberto Martinez lauded the American keeper. He also claims that Howard wanted to go, despite the backstop having said in the past that he wanted to retire at Everton. And he said it plenty of times.

“The modern game doesn’t allow you to have that loyalty or that continuity. When you are coming from another country it makes it even harder. The consistency in his character allows him to perform consistently and, as a performer, it will be difficult to find another as consistent as he is.

“Tim was very keen to be able to be close to his children and he feels it’s the right time to go back home and start a new chapter.”

To speak plainly Howard has been better than Robles. Check these per-90 numbers from advanced stats site Squawka:
Howard Robles Everton

So you have to think Everton isn’t simply handing the keys to Robles, and will be bringing in serious competition for the gig. Either that, or they are taking a massive gamble between the sticks.

It’s a serious changing of the guard at Goodison Park. Howard was never going to play forever, but it’s already looked odd to not see No. 24 in the Toffees’ box.

Howard will reportedly make more than $2.5 million a season at Colorado, but will certainly offset much of that as a box office draw. He’ll also be Stateside for this summer’s Copa America as he looks to work his way back into Jurgen Klinsmann’s No. 1 role.

Follow @NicholasMendola