US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard offered high praise for Landon Donovan on Thursday and expressed eagerness to see the LA Galaxy star return to the USMNT fold for this fall's slate of World Cup qualifiers.
“I think we're at our best when we have our best players available and quite honestly, when you start to stack the chips up, Landon Donovan is one of our best players. That's not in question,” said the veteran Everton FC netminder in a conference call with media intended to promote NBC Sports Network's new coverage of the English Premier League.
“How he fits in and where the manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, sees him, obviously that's not down to me. But I just saw him recently and I'd be excited to have him be in our World Cup qualifying campaign. But again, that's up to the manager and how he sees that dynamic.
“Trust me, if [Donovan] lines up on the other side to say, maybe Clint Dempsey or maybe another winger, teams are going to be fearful. And they're not going to want to see him. It's definitely a big plus for us.”
Last week Howard's Everton side played Real Madrid in the first half of an International Champions Cup doubleheader at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles shortly before Donovan's Galaxy met Juventus in the nightcap. The longtime USMNT shotstopper has no doubt that Donovan has plenty left to contribute to the national team and cited him as an example for Dempsey to follow on his return to MLS following a long stint in the EPL.
“I think it's good to go abroad and test yourself and be at that level,” Howard said when asked if Dempsey's return to the US would negatively affect his USMNT performances. “[But] you take Landon Donovan, for example, he's spent most of his career in MLS and he's found a way to keep his performance levels very, very high, so when he comes into the international game, he doesn't lose a step.
“In fact, he's one of the better players on the field. I think he's shown that and it's tough to argue with that," added Howard, who began his own pro career in MLS with the MetroStars, the former incarnation of the New York Red Bulls. "So Clint will be no different.”
Led by new manager Roberto Martinez, Howard and Everton open their 2013-14 EPL campaign with a visit to Norwich City on Saturday, Aug. 17. It's unclear if Howard will feature in the USMNT's game against Bosnia in Sarajevo on Aug. 14, but he'll almost certainly start in net when the US return to World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica on Sept. 6.