Tim Howard

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Three things from the USMNT’s draw with Venezuela

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The United States worked out the kinks against Venezuela ahead of two huge World Cup qualifiers.

Drawing 1-1 in Utah, the Americans started slow and won’t love their evening overall.

[ MORE: Player ratingsWatch Pulisic’s equalizer ]

Yet the Yanks saw dynamite performances from Tim Howard and Christian Pulisic, with Jorge Villafana also doing plenty of good.

Set pieces are a real concern

Bruce Arena’s appointment didn’t guarantee much, but it promised significant improvement on set pieces. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team did not fare well on corner kicks and free kicks, and Arena was supposed to fix what ailed the Yanks tactically.

Not yet.

The Yanks have not been much better, if at all, in dealing with set pieces, allowing another goal off a corner on Saturday and saved from a second by one of two fantastic saves by Tim “No. 1 Forever” Howard.

Either Fabian Johnson (likely), John Brooks (maybe), or both were victimized on the goal, moved out of position by the ping-pong of the ball amongst Venezuela heads (Win a 50-50, gents!).

And the second saw Clint Dempsey lose his mark for the first header, and Michael Bradley lost on the second as Howard bailed both veterans out.

Pulisic, Pulisic, Pulisic

At the risk of over exuberance, the Borussia Dortmund 18-year-old continues his path toward becoming a transcendent U.S. talent.

Pulisic scored five goals for BVB this season, and now has five as a national team member. Again, he’s 18.

This time, it was a composed move atop the 18.

“The ball just came back to me on top of the box. I just didn’t see the shot on my right foot, so I cut it back once and just put it right to the back post.”

There’s also something about the way Pulisic sees the ball in the center of the park, and the way he sets up for his longer passes, how they come off his foot.

There are some questions about his BVB future with Thomas Tuchel, a huge Pulisic proponent, out the door, but there aren’t any when it comes to his import within the USMNT structure.

Post-friendly calm

Listening to Pulisic and Tim Howard after the game, this friendly was part of the process. No, it didn’t look good. No, they didn’t come out well. But yes, they knew they were experimenting as well as the merits of that experimentation.

That last part is the biggest difference so far under Arena, and the half-year game plan to get used to playing at altitude has embedded itself in the players. We’ll see whether it’s successful on Thursday versus Trinidad and Tobago, and then Sunday at Mexico, but right now we like hearing the following:

Pulisic: “Obviously we had a slow start. We didn’t come out with the right intensity like we should have but as the game went on we found a groove. We’re getting used to the altitude. We’re looking a lot stronger and we feel much more confident.”

Howard: “Just a little bit of experimentation but Bruce Arena emphasized that every time you put that shirt on it means a lot.”

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Venezuela

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The United States failed to beat a non-powerhouse on home soil, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some very good performances from Bruce Arena’s men.

[ RECAP: USMNT 1-1 Venezuela ]

Who starred, and who slipped? Read on…

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 8 — Two outstanding saves on a rocket shot and its ensuing corner made up for a goal he didn’t have much hope of stopping anyway.

Jorge Villafana — 8 — Saved the U.S. bacon in the first half, helped prod the play that started the equalizer, and had an all-around lively day.

John Brooks (Off 56′) — 7 — When he pairs with Cameron, the Yanks have one of the strongest passing center back duos this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Geoff Cameron (Off HT) — 7 — Perhaps the steadiest player in the Yanks’ frustrating first 45 minutes

DeAndre Yedlin (Off 90′) — 6 — Lively first half with a hiccup that could’ve cost the Americans a goal.

Michael Bradley — 6 — A very bad turnover that didn’t lead to anything, but overall quiet and orthodox in the center of the park.

Fabian Johnson (Off 63′) — 5 —  Sloppy night overall, wasting a good scoring chance and positioning himself poorly on the Venezuela goal.

Darlington Nagbe (Off 70′) — 6 — He’s a hard man to judge, as he does 2-3 things per game that make you sit up… only to disappear for swaths of time. A terrific dribble through the heart early in the match.

Christian Pulisic — 8 — He’s the best attacker on the team. He’s also 18.

Bobby Wood — 6 — Some moments of promise and trademark grit, but overall missed his chance to make a difference on the scoresheet.

Clint Dempsey (Off 63′) — 5 — Wasn’t his night, and it had nothing to do with effort. Perhaps being one goal away from matching Landon Donovan’s all-time mark got to him.

Substitutes

Omar Gonzalez (On HT) — 6 — A quiet night for the former LA Galaxy man, and he needed one of those in the U.S. kit.

Matt Hedges (On 56′) — 7 — Confident, steady… the man many of us expected to see should he get the chance.

Kellyn Acosta (On 63′) — 6 — Passing was a bit off, but he remains a fun prospect when played properly in the center of the park.

Tim Ream (On 63′) — 6 — Missed a difficult but finish-worthy chance in close, but defended well.

Jordan Morris (On 70′) — 5 — A little overeager and scattershot in a limited role.

Graham Zusi (On 90′) — N/A

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

MLS Players Union questions security after Howard suspension

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A day after Major League Soccer suspended Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard for an altercation with a fan, the MLS Players Union questioned security at Sporting Kansas City’s stadium.

On Friday night the league suspended Howard for three games for profane language directed toward a fan during a Rapids’ game at Kansas City last Sunday, as well as an altercation with a fan following the match. The Rapids lost 3-1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The longtime U.S. national team star, who formerly played with Manchester United and Everton in the English Premier League, also was fined by MLS.

“While this is out of character for Tim, we do not condone these actions,” the Rapids said in a statement after the discipline was imposed. “We accept the league’s decision and look forward to moving past this. The incidents that took place during our match at Sporting Kansas City last weekend do not represent the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club or Tim’s character and beliefs, on and off the pitch.”

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup | Late-night ]

But on Saturday the players’ union said it was disappointed at how the situation was handled by MLS and suggested security at Children’s Mercy park was not adequate.

“Following the incidents, which involved a verbal exchange with a fan, as well as an altercation after the game, Tim acknowledged his culpability and responsibility for his role,” the union said in a statement. “However, he is the only one involved to do so.”

The union cited the league’s Fan Code of Conduct, which prohibits disorderly behavior including verbal abuse, and said there were no repercussions for Kansas City fans during the game.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

“The security provided by the league and Sporting Kansas City was wholly inadequate to protect players and fans,” the union statement said. “As Tim was attempting to leave the field, a fan with alcohol in hand was able to come within two feet of him on field level and aggressively scream obscenities in his face. That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something that players, or anyone, should be subjected to in their workplace.”

Sporting Kansas City said Saturday the safety is one of the club’s top priorities.

Tim Howard suspended three matches for fan incidents

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Tim Howard has been suspended by MLS for three matches.

Howard, who’d later have an encounter with KC’s Dom Dwyer, was filmed swearing at fans in Colorado’s loss to Sporting KC last week.

That incident alone wasn’t what earned Howard his suspension, as the goalkeeper was reportedly involved in a separate fan incident in the tunnel that involved physical contact.

[ MORE: Handicapping the PL Player of the Year ]

MLSSoccer.com says Howard will also be fined. Howard will miss matches at Real Salt Lake and Orlando, as well as a visit from Minnesota United. The club still has Zac MacMath.

Colorado issued a statement referencing MLS’ “Don’t Cross The Line” campaign, a project which almost certainly amplified the penalty.