Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By FRANCO PANIZO
Tim Howard’s time with the U.S. Men’s National Team is not over yet, but he will not be playing alongside his American teammates any time soon.
U.S. Soccer announced on Thursday that Howard will be taking a year-long break from representing the U.S., but is not closing the book on his international career. Howard had extensive conversations with U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann prior to making the decision that will see the veteran goalkeeper miss next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, but Howard plans to be available afterwards should Klinsmann decide to summon him.
For now, though, Howard intends to take some time away from the U.S. to be with his family and focus on his club responsibilities with Everton.
“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, who has 104 caps with the U.S., in a statement. “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.”
Howard’s absence will open the door for long-time backup Brad Guzan or third-choice goalkeeper Nick Rimando to claim the starting spot ahead the 2015 Gold Cup. Guzan, 29, might be the odds-on favorite, but it is an open competition as of now.
“This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the No. 1 spot,” said Klinsmann in the same statement. “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 first-choice goalkeeper for the U.S. since 2007, Howard has started in the Americans’ last eight World Cup matches across the 2010 and 2014 tournaments. He shone most recently in Brazil, making a record 15 saves in a Round of 16 extra-time loss to Belgium.
That valiant performance made Howard a celebrity back home in the United States, but the 35-year-old netminder said in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat that he needed some time to think about his international future.
After some lengthy discussions, the decision has been made.
“We had a very good and productive conversation,” said Klinsmann. “I totally understand Tim’s situation. He was very straightforward 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.”
Added Howard: “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.”
What do you think of Howard deciding to take a break from the USMNT? Who do you see starting at next summer’s Gold Cup, Guzan or Rimando? Envision Howard coming back and making a run to start in Russia 2018?
Share your thoughts below.