SAN JOSE, Calif. — Three-time World Cup veteran Tim Howard has made two starts in net for the Colorado Rapids this month, logging 180 regular-season minutes after coming off November surgery to repair an adductor injury in his right leg.
So, Tim, you’re at 100 percent now, right?
“I’m 38; I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent again,” Howard cracked Monday after the US national team convened for its first practice in advance of facing Honduras on Friday (10:30 pm ET, FS1, Follow on the MLS App) in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Avaya Stadium. “I’ve played through everything in my career, so it’s not an issue for me.”
Howard, who suffered the injury facing Mexico in the Americans’ first game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal round, could step right back into very familiar territory in his international return: manning the posts for USMNT head coach Bruce Arena, something he first did way back in 2002.
“I was young when I first played under Bruce,” Howard said. “It’s kind of good that we’ve had a long-standing relationship. It’s nice to be back in and work under him again, particularly as both our careers have evolved.”
With rival Brad Guzan unavailable because he and his wife welcomed a baby girl on Sunday night, Howard presumably inherits the starting role he held at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Neither Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake nor David Bingham of the San Jose Earthquakes (Guzan’s replacement) — the two other US goalkeepers in camp — have seen action in a World Cup qualifier.
“He’s feeling pretty good for a 38-year-old goalkeeper,” Arena said of Howard. Asked specifically about Howard’s readiness, Arena only replied: “I think the goalkeepers we have here are going to be fine and help us win.”
With seven saves in his MLS return – a 1-0 Rapids' loss to the New York Red Bulls on March 11 – Howard certainly looked spry enough to help a US squad that began the Hex with back-to-back losses, including a 4-0 thumping at Costa Rica.
“There’s been a lot of talk since Costa Rica … so there was some excitement to get back in there,” Howard said. “But now is when we really earn our money. I think everyone’s come in really excited.”
Along with Houston’s DaMarcus Beasley and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey, Howard is one of three players currently with the US national team who traveled with Arena to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. That group can provide some guidance to players less familiar with Arena’s personal style.
“It’s always helpful when you can have guys who understand the manager and know what he’s like,” Howard said. “We’ve got a few guys who’ve worked with him before at various levels. It’s always important to have an understanding of what the manager wants.”
Arena drew an implicit comparison for those wondering about Howard’s age, noting that Italian captain Gianluigi Buffon is 39.
“You hope your experience gives you better angles, better positioning and better decision-making,” Howard said. “But I also am thankful that my reflexes and reactions haven’t slowed. So that’s been a good thing. I probably take less risks, and I think that’s helpful.”