HOUSTON – Tim Howard got the plaudits after an unbelievable 16-save performance in the US national team’s final World Cup game in Brazil.
If that was the last time the 35-year-old goalkeeper dons the red, white and blue on the world’s biggest stage, Aston Villa 'keeper Shay Given believes the Yanks will be in good hands.
Speaking to the media in Houston before his club takes on the Houston Dynamo in Saturday’s BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup (8 pm ET, streamed live on HoustonDynamo.com), Given lauded his teammate Brad Guzan’s ability to carry the mantle as the potential USMNT No. 1. In fact, Given believes that Guzan is ready to push for the job right now.
“I think he’s challenging Tim already, and I think that’s why Tim’s done so well in the World Cup because Brad’s breathing down his neck,” Given told reporters on Thursday. “He’s got to be on top of his game to stay in the team.
"I’m sure if Tim’s form dips, Brad will be ready to step into his place. In the next campaign, I’m sure [US head coach Jurgen] Klinsmann will have a big decision to either play Brad or Tim in the big games.”
Whether Howard steps aside now or before the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Guzan seems destined for the spot.
“I’ve constantly said that it’s my job to push Tim and try and make sure he’s at his best, and I’m at my best and at the end of the day the manager makes the decision on who plays,” Guzan told reporters on Friday. “I’ll continue to make sure I’m at my highest level. Whether it’s Tim or other guys in the goalkeeping group, I’ll push them and I’m sure they’ll push me.”
Howard passed the torch in a way with kind words for Guzan during a guest appearance on Good Morning America following his Brazil antics.
“Tim has been so successful with the national team for so many years now and to have someone like that say those words about you is a good feeling,” Guzan said. “At the same time, I have to prove myself. I don’t expect anything to be given to me; I don’t expect anything to be handed to me. It’s all about me proving myself and earning the right to play for my country.”
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Guzan, who trained with Villa in Houston for the first time since the World Cup, has developed into an established EPL starter. The former Chivas USA custodian has made a name for himself the past two seasons while being frequently tested behind Villa’s porous backline.
And when Howard struggled before the World Cup, there were calls for the 29-year-old to take the reins.
“It’ll depend on Tim Howard, of course, whether Tim wants to continue on or not,” Given said. “If he does, then it’ll be a battle between Tim and Brad.
"If Tim does step down, then as far as I can see, it’s automatic that Brad would step into those gloves. He’s been in and around the squad for a number of years now with Jurgen Klinsmann, and I think everyone in the US set-up knows how good he is as well.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.