All right! Four points for Da Bruce. Now that the US has returned to the ranks of the re-oriented, we're left sorting out some new data around a key question for March's CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: Who's going to stand between the sticks against Honduras?
The Clear Favorite
Name: Tim Howard
Team: Colorado Rapids (MLS)
2016: 17 GP • 6-3-8 • 7 shutouts • 1.12 GAA
USMNT: 111 caps • World Cup 2010, '14
Current Status:Injured (Right adductor longus fracture)
Yeah, Tim Howard is injured. The adductor, suffered in November's crusher against Mexico, leaves the Colorado Rapids netminder – and US incumbent – chasing a March 8 return. That would leave only two weeks to prep for international action of the most crucial order. But Howard, if he shows he's close, is going to be the guy. Consider this:
Howard not only played the fewest games of any of those keepers – just the 17-game half-season slate – he logged the biggest differential between expected and actual goals against, a lead that likely would've expanded with more matches. Also, he was one of four MLS goalies to save multiple penalty kicks last year. The Secretary of Defense was long ago confirmed for this role, and there'd be scant opposition to a renewed call.
The Actual Options
Name: Brad Guzan
Team: Middlesbrough (English Premier League) / Atlanta United FC (MLS)
2016/17: 3 GP • 1-0-0 • 2 shutouts • 0.33 GAA
USMNT: 53 caps • World Cup 2010, '14
Current Status:Awaiting Transfer
After Howard, fellow English Premier League veteran Brad Guzan has the most international experience. No other 'keeper has registered 30 US caps, let alone anything close to Guzan's 53. Yet he's played only one game since August, a 0-0 draw with reigning EPL champs Leicester City just after New Year's, and the countdown is on until he debuts for Atlanta United FC. Important to remember, then, that Guzan ranks top 10 in EPL saves since 2011, though that perhaps speaks more to the state of Aston Villa backlines. Could a couple of MLS games knock off enough rust to start him? Maybe, but if not, US head coach Bruce Arena has established a strong alternate.
Name: Nick Rimando
Team: Real Salt Lake (MLS)
2016: 30 GP • 11-9-10 • 6 shutouts • 1.33 GAA
USMNT: 22 caps • World Cup 2014
Perennial MLS Goalkeeper of the Year snub Nick Rimando (seriously, how has he not won one yet?!) has anchored a pair of MLS Cup champions (D.C. 2004, RSL '09) and played in a third final (RSL, '13). He's rewritten the record books and already served third-string duty for the 2014 World Cup. His penalty-saving skills are legendary, and everything's aligning for this to be his long-deserved moment in the sun. Start Rimando, and the scoresheet is one thing the US won't have to worry about.
Name: David Bingham
Team: San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
2016: 34 GP • 8-12-14 • 8 shutouts • 1.15 GAA
USMNT: 3 caps
Name: William Yarbrough
Team: Club Léon (Liga MX)
2016/17: (Apertura) 17 GP • 3 shutouts • 1.47 GAA
USMNT: 3 caps
Name: Ethan Horvath
Team: Club Brugge KV (Jupiler Pro League)
2016: 22 GP • 9-8-5 • 6 shutouts • 1.36 GAA
USMNT: 1 cap
San Jose Earthquakes 'keeper David Bingham has turned in several strong seasons at Avaya Stadium, with the requisite shot-stopping skills and a developing command of his area that indicate potential to take the reins from the elder statesmen in time. Down in Mexico, Club Léon's William Yarbrough has shown he can be an effective starter against high-octane offenses. But MLS Digital's resident Liga MX expert Abner Aceves (Sorry, Other Ben!) tells me Yarbrough is error-prone, so that'll need to improve for any elevation within this group. And fresh off a €1 million transfer from Norway's Molde, Horvath has yet to break in with his new squad, but has begun building the early-career bonafides to earn a regular role with the senior roster.
Best of the Rest
Name: Luis Robles
Team: New York Red Bulls (MLS)
2016: 34 GP • 16-9-9 • 11 shutouts • 1.12 GAA
USMNT: 3 caps
Name: Bill Hamid
Team: D.C. United (MLS)
2016: 34 GP • 16-9-9 • 5 shutouts • 1.25 GAA
USMNT: 2 caps
New York Red Bulls netminder Luis Robles is an ironman capable of remarkable consistency and raises his game in front of the home fans, but lacks the high ceiling necessary to displace any of the others. Solid showing against Jamaica, though. Bill Hamid has shown D.C. United fans that high ceiling on an ongoing basis, but also the frustrationg borne of multiple momentum-killing injuries, like, say … the one that kept him out of January camp and any shot at this round of international action.