US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has confirmed to US Soccer that Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan will remain his first-choice goalkeeper even after Everton’s Tim Howard returns to the fold next month.
Howard, 36, last featured for the US in the 2-1 extra-time defeat to Belgium in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup, when the 104-times capped keeper pulled off a tournament record 15 saves to keep Klinsmann’s side in contention for most of the match.
However, the Toffees stopper later announced in August that would take a 12-month break from the international game – with Klinsmann’s blessing – to spend more time with his children.
In his absence, long-time backup Guzan fought off competition from Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando to be named the interim No. 1 and went on to start all six of the team’s matches at last month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
While the States themselves endured a disappointing campaign – finishing outside the top three spots for the first time since 2000, the Villa veteran’s performances stood out as an obvious bright spot, as he took home the Golden Glove award for the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
His impressive form even led some to wonder whether Howard might decide to call time on his international career rather than end his self-imposed sabbatical, but Klinsmann has since confirmed that the former Manchester United man will be back for the coming friendlies against Peru and Brazil.
Nevertheless, while the USA boss is pleased to have the experienced keeper available for selection again, he stresses that the job is Guzan’s to lose for the time being, telling USSoccer: “Tim knew it was not going to be easy to come back because obviously Brad Guzan established himself as the number one and played a very good tournament and the whole year he really did a good job.
“Tim has accepted for the time being to be the number two, and then down the road there will be a fight for the number one spot like in every position. He accepted that, and we are really happy to have him back on board because of who he is and what he has done for us.”
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Aged 30, Guzan has long-been hailed as Howard’s successor between the US posts but has had to bide his time behind his compatriot for almost a decade – settling for 37 caps since his debut in 2006.
With Howard turning 37 next March, though, and suffering a dip in form last season, Klinsmann’s decision to keep the Chicago-native in the line-up seems like a move made with Russia 2018 in mind.
He did endure disappointing end to the 2014-15 campaign himself, having lost his place in the Villa side to the since-departed Shay Given following a blunder in April’s 3-2 defeat at Manchester City, but the former MLS star now is back as Tim Sherwood’s No. 1 this term and so far impressing.
Another period of struggle at the club level could well give Howard a chance to win back his old job but, for the moment, Guzan is in the driving seat and making the most of his chance.