World Cup: Tim Howard still undecided on international future, but sees good times ahead for USMNT

Tim Howard gave a performance for the ages in the US goal on Tuesday evening against Belgium, and even after the dust has started to settle, he is not quite ready to make a decision over his international future.

The United States encountered the all-too-familiar feeling of defeat in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 in extra time to Belgium, but Howard gave one of the best showings of his international career, making 16 saves – a World Cup record since the stat was first recorded in 1966 – and winning the Budweiser Man of the Match award despite finishing on the losing side.

“When you’re in the public eye it’s part of what you have to deal with,” Howard told reporters on a conference call of the hubbub surrounding his performance, which has reached astronomical heights in the last 24 hours. “It’s nothing new, I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. It’s nice that America knows about soccer now, that’s what’s most important.”

With Howard, 35, now in the later stages of his career, the immediate focus has turned to whether or not we will see Howard represent the US in four years’ time in the 2018 World Cup. When posed the question of who would start in 2018 on the Dan Patrick Show, he gave a definitive answer: not him.

“It's a good question. I would imagine at the moment the way things look, I think Brad Guzan,” Howard said. “He's a top Premier League goalkeeper, a dear friend and his talent is incredible.”

Does that mean Howard will take his leave from the international scene and give a chance to the man who’s been his No. 2 on the national team for so long?

Not quite.

“What happens going forward with the national team, I don’t know,” Howard told reporters. “Everything’s a bit raw at the moment. I don’t think it’s black and white to be honest.

“There’s no doubt barring injury that I’ll be fit and willing to keep going, but there’s a lot more things that go into that decision than just my physical health, so it’s something that in time I’ll decide on.”

The good news is that Howard’s physical health seems just fine. Even in the draining 120-minute game against Belgium, Howard admitted he encountered few physical problems -- or at least less than his colleagues in front of him.

“Physically I was fine. When you’re active and you’re the match a lot, you go into a zone, your body goes into autopilot,” he said. “Those guys that are in front of me, they’re incredible, how they run that long and that hard is beyond me.

“And I’m driving them on, I’m cracking the whip and I can see that they don’t want to do it, but they keep pushing themselves, and their performance was absolutely miraculous, really, it was very tough to do what they did for 120 minutes.”

On the club level, Howard sounds like a player 10 years younger when talking about his future with Everton of the English Premier League, where he has played for the last eight seasons, and recently signed a four-year contract extension.

“[The extension] excites me, all the good things that are going on at that club, which obviously is a club that love,” Howard said.

Even if Howard does choose to step away from the international game and focus on his club career, he says he hopes that he leaves the US in good hands, and cited two players from Tuesday’s game in particular as potential pillars for the US to build on.

“I think this is a very young team and even if guys didn’t play serious minutes, they were part of this experience and they’ll be so much better for it in the coming years,” he said. “You saw Julian Green last night who came up with the goal we desperately needed, but more so DeAndre Yedlin, he just puts a smile on my face.

“He comes in the game and he faces Eden Hazard and he never looked back. Eden Hazard is the best player in the Premier League, or was one of them last year.”

And though many American fans would certainly be disappointed to see Howard go after backstopping them to two Round of 16 appearances in the World Cup, they can be reassured knowing he has every confidence in the next generation.

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