Tim Howard released a statement today through the United States Soccer Federation, announcing that he will be taking a break from international soccer until September 2015.
Clearly having learned from Landon Donovan’s ill-fated sabbatical, Howard made it clear that he has discussed this move with national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, saying, “I am grateful for the understanding of Jurgen Klinsmann who is affording me the opportunity to spend some much needed time with my kids and to have the opportunity to compete for a spot upon my return.”
Even at the height of his popularity in the wake of his epic 16 save effort against Belgium during the World Cup, the veteran keeper took pains not repeat Donovan’s perceived mistakes, and the netminder has apparently received Klinsmann’s blessing.
“I totally understand Tim’s situation,” Klinsmann said via U.S. Soccer. “He was very straight forward 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.”
Then Klinsmann delivered the expected caveat, “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.”
Howard’s decision should give understudy, Aston Villa starter Brad Guzan his first real chance to unseat Howard, although Klinsmann said that third stringer Nick Rimando will also be given an opportunity. MLS keepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson could also work their way back into the picture.
Howard’s break differs from Donovan’s in that he will continue his duties as Everton’s number one. Donovan shut it down completely, staying away from the L.A. Galaxy, in addition to the national team.
Howard will also be busy with his television work for NBC Sports, covering the English Premier League. His two children, ages 8 and 7, live with his ex-wife in the U.S. and from his statement, Howard has made it clear that he intends to spend time with them.
And the Toffee’s starter was also clear that while he is stepping away for now, he has every intention of continuing with his U.S. MNT career.
“I understand that I will have to earn my place with the team and in the lineup when I come back, and I look forward to doing that. Physically I feel as strong as ever, and right now my heart, mind, and body all feel good about continuing on with the national team for the next World Cup. It is difficult to predict the situation in four years but I know this decision is right for me today.”
The U.S. should manage well enough in Howard’s absence. In another break from the Donovan situation, Howard will not be missing any key competitions with the national team.
While Donovan was re-charging the U.S. were playing important CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, and although Klinsmann accepted Donovan back into the group, it is clear that the relationship between the two never recovered.
In contrast, Howard will be missing a handful of friendlies and next summer’s Gold Cup, which the Yanks won in 2013 with Real Salt Lake’s Rimando between the pipes.
Guzan can be expected to get the first shot at the number 1 jersey when the U.S. face the Czech Republic on September 3, in Prague. Friendlies are also set for October 10 in East Hartford, Connecticut, against Ecuador, October 14, opponent and venue to be determined, and on November 18, versus the Republic of Ireland, in Dublin, Ireland.