As Tim Howard lay crumpled on the field in Rustenberg Stadium, more than a few watching the athletic goalkeeper grimace in pain wondered if he would be able to continue.
The Everton keeper did rise and went on to finish the match with an impressive series of saves versus England, though a cortisone shot at halftime was needed to help dull the ache of the injury. The USA finished the match with a draw versus the Three Lions squad, who were considered one of the early favorites for the tournament.
However, it appears that bruised, not broken ribs are the final diagnosis for the goalkeeper, who is expected to start in goal again versus Slovenia.
Though the smallest country participating in the tournament, Slovenia now lead Group C by virtue of a 1-0 win over Algeria. A win is vital for the USA's hopes to reach the second round.
Backup goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan are considered quite capable, but Howard is considered a definite level above.
In fact, broadcast analyst Jurgen Klinsmann, an excellent Germany striker in his day, said he considered Howard one of the top five goalkeepers in the entire tournament.
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