If you are a U.S. national team fan who has been looking forward to the chance to see Tim Howard play for the U.S. for the first time since his amazing performance against Belgium in the World Cup, you are going to have to wait a while.
Howard has decided to step away from the U.S. national team set-up for the next year, U.S. Soccer announced on Thursday. After conversations with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his club manager at Everton, Roberto Martinez, Howard has decided to step aside in order to have more time to spend with his family and also to cut down on the grind he has been on with the national team for the past eight years.
“Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time,” said Howard. “I am grateful for the willingness of both Jurgen Klinsmann and Everton manager Roberto Martinez to afford me the opportunity to spend time with my kids. It’s the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”
Klinsmann is supporting Howard’s decision, and he sees it as a good opportunity for the other goalkeepers in the U.S. player pool at the start of the new World Cup cycle.
“We had a very good and productive conversation,” Klinsmann said. “I totally understand Tim’s situation. He was very straight forward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that. He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it’s absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer’s Gold Cup, and then we re-evaluate. I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back.”
Howard, 35, has been the U.S. starter since 2007 and has taken part in busy summer schedules every year since then. From the Gold Cup in 2007, to World Cup qualifying in 2008, qualifying and the Confederations Cup in 2009, the World Cup in 2010, Gold Cup in 2011, qualifying in 2012 and 2013, to the 2014 World Cup.
Next summer, Howard will have his first free summer since 2005 (he was Kasey Keller’s backup at the 2006 World Cup).
With Howard stepping aside for the upcoming year, Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan will be expected to take on the starting job in a year that will feature the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Klinsmann isn’t ready to just hand Guzan the starting job, though, and expects an open competition including Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the No. 1 spot,” said Klinsmann. “We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time. Always when somebody steps aside for a moment, it gives an opportunity for the next ones in line.”
The U.S. team returns to action on Sept. 3 with a friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague.