U.S. national team head coach Bruce Arena has backed Brad Guzan despite a lack of playing time at the club level.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper has made just five appearances for Middlesbrough this season, as Victor Valdes has taken over the starting spot.
Arena said Guzan, who will move to Atlanta United after the Premier League season, is still right in the mix to start the USA's vital World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama on March 24 and 28.
"Brad Guzan is a very experienced goalkeeper," Arena said on a conference call Thursday. "As we saw in the case of Nick Rimando in the January camp, that experience means a lot.
"Because they're not getting games on a consistent basis doesn't mean you can rule them out. I think Brad has shown enough that he's still a strong candidate to be our No. 1 goalkeeper."
The U.S. may be forced to rely on Guzan in part due to an injury to Tim Howard, who underwent groin surgery in November.
"In the case of Tim Howard, he's moving along pretty well. I believe he's 12 weeks out of surgery," Arena said. "The expectation for him is his full recovery would be between 12 and 16 weeks, so he's on schedule to hopefully start the first week of the Major League Soccer season.
"Having said that though, it could be off a couple weeks and perhaps he won't be a candidate for March. Right now he's in the picture and that's a positive."