What tomorrow’s goalkeeper platoon tells us about the U.S. goalkeeper void

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Amid news of captaincies and potential debuts, a story that started with Tim Howard’s unexpected hiatus is also unfolding in Prague. But instead of beginning as Brad Guzan’s chance to lay claim to the U.S.’s one shirt, Howard’s temporary absence appears to have blown the team’s goalkeeping competition open.

At least, that’s what we can infer from today’s news that Guzan and Nick Rimando, thought firmly settled into a backup’s role, will split time tomorrow against the Czech Republic, something that explains Rimando’s curious call up. Previously entrenched as the team’s number three, Rimando is the only Major League Soccer player flying to Prague for tomorrow’s mid-MLS season friendly. Between that and the split of playing time, it appears Rimando’s getting every chance to show he can out-play Guzan.

Consider that in light of we what thought last month; at least, what I thought in the wake of Howard’s announcement:

Though [Howard’s] going to stay active with Everton, his time away from the team abdicates his starting job. When, at 36, he returns next year, he’ll have to unseat whomever claims his spot.

That person will almost certainly be Brad Guzan (right) – the long-time number two who filled in ably when called on in World Cup qualifying …

He’ll be the presumed starter for the U.S.’s upcoming friendlies. Come next summer, he should be the number one when the U.S. tries to qualify for the Confederations Cup. With a steady run as the team’s lead shot-stopper, Guzan will have every opportunity to cement the starting job …

Rimando isn’t even mentioned until the conversation turns to the backups, with the RSL veteran used a segue to Bill Hamid versus Sean Johnson. Even though he’s established himself as MLS’s best, Rimando’s place as Guzan’s understudy was accepted as a given.

What a stupid assumption. Not that I was alone in it. In fact, I’d wager most people saw this as Guzan’s chance, not Rimando’s. And to an extent, I still believe that’s the case, but for us to just assume Klinsmann wouldn’t use this as an opportunity to take a fresh look at the position? It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from the coach’s time in charge.

This doesn’t change the merits of Guzan versus Rimando, merits Klinsmann may buy into. He may sees Guzan as his best goalkeeper. He may be giving Rimando 45 minutes because it’s a friendly, one that’s as far from the next World Cup as possible.

But Rimando is being flown in from Utah. Where decisions need to be made about a possible post-Howard world, he’s getting 45 of playing time. This seems like more than a try out for Guzan. If we hadn’t already concluded otherwise, this would look like an outright competition.

How dare we make assumptions about how Jurgen Klinsmann sees the world.