32913_guzanhoward_isi_usmntjla101409125 Jose L. Argueta/isiphotos.com
Creating Controversy

Brad Guzan Is Good, but Tim Howard Is Still No. 1

After Brad Guzan posted two shutouts in recent qualifiers, Jurgen Klinsmann said the Aston Villa netminder is "more than a No. 2." Jon Arnold doesn't think he'll supplant Tim Howard.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
March 29, 2013
12:31 PM
We knew Guzan was good and didn’t worry about his ability to be the shot-stopper the U.S. needed. Sure enough, he comes out of the two matches with no goals allowed and the team comes away with four points. After such strong performances, it’s easy to get caught up in a euphoric wave and declare the goalkeeping situation a competition or an outright controversy. Jurgen Klinsmann even said as much.

But there’s a reason Howard is so established as the starter: He’s really good. Klinsmann said that, too, offering, “we didn’t forget about Tim." Guzan knows it. There’s a worthy discussion here, and competition isn’t bad, but a switch to Guzan now could result in a Tonight Show-esque reversal a few matches later if he stumbles at all. That would create an actual controversy to the detriment of the squad.

Sure, the Everton keeper, who turned 34 this month, isn’t getting any younger, but that’s fresh-faced for goalkeepers. Fans at Goodison Park were fretting before Christmas when Howard’s form took a dip but he rediscovered his form. Provided his recovery from the back injury progresses well, he can also be the same keeper he’s been for the Americans when the June qualifiers roll around.

Howard hasn’t just been among the best keepers in the region the past two cycles, he’s been the best. Guzan—and Mexico’s pair of Guillermo Ochoa and Jose Corona—are gaining ground, but Howard is still on top. Guzan has made the best of a shooting gallery situation at Aston Villa but Howard too has faced plenty of shots in the Premier League. Their save percentages are similar with Howard’s just edging Guzan’s on a few dozen fewer shots.

And while it’s easy to overstate the intangibles, Howard is clearly one of the team’s leaders. With a green back line—no matter if you include the injuries that struck this time around—communication is imperative. The man in goal has to know what to say when the ball is in play, when setting up the wall on a free kick, or after a blunder has led to the ball in the back of his net. It’s not that Guzan doesn’t possess that ability, but there’s no doubt Howard knows how to communicate well and understands how to get across to the guys playing in front of him.

His experience speaks for itself. How many times has the defense broken down in a qualifier, World Cup match, or even a friendly only to have Howard somehow keep the ball out? Too many to count. There’s an expectation that no matter how horrible a situation he’s put in, he’ll make the save, and more often than not he does. There are occasions on which he can’t make the stop, as with any other goalkeeper, but it’s rash to replace him after two good games by Guzan.

The Aston Villa man is excellent in his own right, and U.S. fans should be glad Klinsmann has both balding backstops at his call. The 28-year-old Guzan will have his time to be the man for the Red, White, and Blue. That time hasn’t come yet. The No. 1 job was Howard’s before the injury and two clean sheets later, it should be his to lose when he returns.

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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