Tim Howard rejects backup label as Brad Guzan remains US No. 1

Tim Howard USA

The 36-year-old goalkeeper is maintaining a starter's mentality after returning from his year-long international break.

Tim Howard might have returned to the US national team setup as Brad Guzan’s backup but the Everton goalkeeper is still not prepared to accept that label.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s friendly against Peru in Washington D.C., the 36-year-old told SBISoccer.com: “Never been a backup. I think that’s a mentality. I work my tail off every day. I know what it means to compete at the highest level and have a certain level of excellence, and I do that.

“I’ve never been a backup, never will be, so that’s not something I really worry about too much.”

Howard, who has earned 104 USA caps since his debut in March 2002, last appeared for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men in the 2-1 extra-time defeat to Belgium at the 2014 World Cup, when he received widespread plaudits after pulling off a tournament record 15 saves during the round of 16 clash.

However, the New Jersey-native later announced that he was taking a year-long break from the international setup – 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 games at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup.

While the States themselves endured a disappointing campaign – finishing outside the top three spots for the first time since 2000, the Aston Villa man’s performances stood out as an obvious bright spot, as he took home the Golden Glove award for the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

While Howard has now returned to the fold, Klinsmann has since stressed that the former Chivas USA stopper has earned the right to start for the time being and will be in goal for next month’s crucial Confederations Cup play-off against Mexico.

"Brad is the No. 1. Tim is the No. 2," the head coach told ESPN FC earlier this week. "Once we've got the Mexico game hopefully successfully out of the way, then we can think about how we can split maybe some time. But now it's really about getting consistency with the players and getting a job done in October."

 2015-16 Premier League TeamGoals ConcededError Lead To GoalError Lead To ShotClean SheetSavesTotal High ClaimCross ClaimGoal Kick AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Brad Guzan Aston Villa 5 0 0 1 8 12 100% 51% 4 360
Tim Howard Everton 4 0 0 2 20 6 100% 64% 4 360

Guzan, 30, has long-been hailed as Howard’s successor between the US posts but has had to bide his time behind his fellow Premier League star for almost his entire international career – settling for 37 caps since his debut in 2006.

With Howard turning 37 next March, though, the Villa ace is the clear favourite to be starting once Russia 2018 rolls around – even if his compatriot does not see things like that.

“Nothing changes for me, honestly. It really doesn’t,” added Howard. “I do all the same things come kickoff on Friday. If I need to play, I’ll be 100 percent ready. If I don’t, I don’t, so my mentality doesn’t change.”

Having started the 2015-16 Premier League season in top form, it is far too soon to be writing off Howard’s chances of winning back his old job in the future but, as long as Guzan keeps performing for both club and country, then the Toffees veteran will have to start becoming more familiar with the US bench.

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