Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Jurgen Klinsmann has long professed his belief in Tim Howard being a top five goalkeeper in the world, and the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach believes this summer will be the perfect time for Howard to show it.
“I think there is also something special waiting for Tim, and hopefully he makes this his special moment,” Klinsmann said from training at Stanford University. “His consistency over years now in the Premier League, I think he was in the top three in the Premier League this year – I look at him in the top five of the world – and that is kind of a moment to make that World Cup your World Cup.”
The 35-year-old goalkeeper played in his first World Cup four years ago in South Africa. He started out with a strong showing against England in a 1-1 draw that saw him suffer bruised ribs after a collision with Jermain Defoe, and while he was solid the rest of the way, he was not as spectacular as he has repeatedly proven he can be.
This summer’s matches provide him with the perfect stage to show even more fans from all over the world just how good he can be, and not just because of the Americans’ Group G opposition. Yes, Howard will likely need to come up big against Ghana, Portugal and Germany for the U.S. to have any shot at advancing into the knockout phase of the tournament. But he also will need to continue to showcase his strong leadership skills by leading and organizing a back line that is short on World Cup experience.
“We need a Tim Howard that gives them confidence, we need a very vocal Tim Howard, and that’s what he’s doing,” said Klinsmann. “It’s fun to watch. He’s looking over their shoulders, he’s giving them advice not only on the field when we train but also when they hang out in the cafeteria and as a group together. He’s making sure that they are confident, that they know what they’re doing, and that they know that they can make mistakes because nobody’s perfect. He goes, I hope really, into a huge World Cup.”
On the other end of the spectrum and other side of the field, forwards Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd are looking to impress Klinsmann to the point that he gives them some playing time this summer. The two youngsters’ roles with the U.S. are undetermined as of now, and both will likely need strong performances in the pre-World Cup camp and friendlies in order to have a shot at earning minutes in Brazil.
Scoring goals would also help their cause, especially since they have just one goal between them in 20 combined appearances. But Klinsmann is not concerned by those numbers, because he insists that the goals will come and that Boyd and Johannsson are currently works in progress.
“They grow, they grow,” said Klinsmann. “It’s just a developmental path that you go through. Sooner or later you break through in the national team like (Chris Wondolowski) did. In the last two years he was also missing those goals with us and then the Gold Cup came and Wondo came.
“For Aron and Terrence, they’re just with us for a year or two. It’s the same path. They build up more confidence in their club teams, they get the goals in their club teams, they understand the different levels between wherever they play and the national team and where they play and other leagues. It’s just a path they have to go through and develop and be hungry every day on the training field and build that consistency and confidence to do it also on an international stage. It’s just a normal journey that they’re going through.”