COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—Goalkeeping has been a topic of intrigue for the US National Team during this CONCACAF World Cup qualifying cycle. But current USMNT manager Bruce Arena left little doubt when it came to naming a current No. 1 at the position.
“As of now, it’s Tim Howard,” Arena said after Monday’s training session at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “It’s two good games, and we’ll have to see how these guys look over the next couple weeks. But we have good goalkeepers here, so that’s the least of my worries.”
The Colorado Rapids ‘keeper was one of four goalkeepers called into a two-week training camp in Colorado as the US prepares for three June matches, including the two critical qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico.
Along with Howard, veterans Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC) and Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) along with 21-year-old Ethan Horvath (Belgium's Club Brugge) round out the crop of goalkeepers called up by Arena.
“When you look at the roster top-to-bottom, you feel good about the guys who were able to come in and not only compete for spots, but also get on the field and perform,” Howard said. “I think we’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys the manager believe in wholeheartedly. They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes and to play important minutes.”
The USMNT’s June 8 matchup against Trinidad and Tobago figures to be Howard’s third consecutive start in net for the Yanks, following the last pair of qualifiers in March.
“World Cup qualifying is the only thing on our mind ,and we need to win our home game against Trinidad,” Howard said. “That’s vital.”
Prior to the March qualifiers, Howard had undergone surgery and a 16-week recovery period following an injury to the right adductor longus muscle (located in the upper groin) during November's WCQ loss to Mexico. Now, though, the 38-year-old feels healthy and confident heading into the next round of matches for the US.
“I feel great,” Howard said. “My body has been getting stronger week by week as I came out of preseason so I feel good about where I’m out. How I feel physically is the most important thing in soccer. The goalkeeping is natural, so at my age it’s all about rest, recovery and getting on the field.”
He’s healthy, confident, and has the trust of Arena and the coaching staff. Nevertheless, Howard isn’t making any changes to his preparations, nor is he getting comfortable in his current role.
“I’ve only ever had one game,” he said. “That’s as far as you can look.
“You can’t look at next week or the week after or two months from now. The next game is what matters most to me. If I have the honor of representing my country, outside of my kids, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It means the world to me to get on the field, put that shirt on, and help lead this team and perform well. If I do that, then hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”