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Following Howard’s decision to take a year-long sabbatical following his heroic performance at the 2014 World Cup, the 37-year-old has returned to the fold in the last two U.S. squads but has only played one of three games after head coach Jurgen Klinsmann revealed Guzan would be the starter for the USMNT through the CONCACAF Cup match against Mexico in October.
Guzan, 31, started for the U.S. at the Gold Cup this summer and for the friendly against Peru when Howard was back in the reckoning. As mentioned the Aston Villa goalkeeper also started ahead of Howard in the USA’s 3-2 defeat to Mexico in the one-off CONCACAF Cup clash for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup but now the duo seemed to be neck and neck in the race to be the starter.
“Nothing has changed for me or for Brad,” Howard said via the Associated Press in Miami. “We try to do our best with our clubs, and Jurgen will make his decision based on a number of different factors. But it’s not something I lose sleep over.”
As for Guzan, he’s stepped into the role as first-choice goalkeeper over the past 12 months and, for the most part, has done a stellar job. He may have been blamed for a few goals here and there, especially during the semifinal defeat to Jamaica in the Gold Cup, but the Illinois native has been solid in Howard’s absence.
“Part of being a goalkeeper is that everyone is competing for one spot on the field,” Guzan said. “You get used to it. You need to be pushing each other.”
Howard has not walked straight back into the team and at the age of 36, you get the sense that the coming 12 months are crucial for how the next three years (he is contracted at Everton up until the 2018 World Cup) will pan out for him. With Everton fans criticizing Howard this season following an uneasy display against Arsenal in a loss in October, the former MetroStars and Manchester United goalkeeper is facing a tough test to keep his starting spot for club and country. Guzan put in a superb display against Manchester City in a 0-0 draw for Villa on Sunday — with a little help from his face — and seems to still be first choice heading into the two 2018 World Cup qualifiers over the next 10 days.
Heading into those games, Howard believes the U.S. can rebound after losing three-straight games on home soil for the first time since 1997, plus the Gold Cup disappointment this summer and losing the Confederations Cup playoff to Mexico.
“We’re a good team,” Howard said. “Part of being a good team is drawing from experience. We know what it’s like to qualify for World Cups – no one does it better. We continue to qualify, we do it in style, and we’re not going to worry about a few difficult months. That’s past us.”