USA and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has decided to take a hiatus from playing for the US Men’s National Team, and will not be considered for selection until the fall of 2015.
The shock decision by Howard, who was arguably the best performing American at World Cup 2014, was made after discussion with USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The announcement from the US Soccer Federation is quick to note that “Howard is not retiring from international play. The decision is driven mainly by the desire to spend more time with his family.”
“Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time,” said Howard. “I am grateful for the willingness of both Jurgen Klinsmann and Everton manager Roberto Martinez to afford me the opportunity to spend time with my kids. It’s the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”
“We had a very good and productive conversation,” said Klinsmann. “I totally understand Tim’s situation. He was very straight forward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that. He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it’s absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer’s Gold Cup, and then we reevaluate. I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back.”
Howard will miss as many as eight friendly matches as well as the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, giving Klinsmann the chance to see other goalkeepers in action. He will continue in his starting role for Everton of the English Premier League, which is now in the second week of the 2014-15 season that runs through May. Plus Howard will be spending time in England working for NBC Sports in its coverage of the league, outside of Everton games.
Howard has amassed 104 caps and is the USA’s all-time leader for goalkeepers in appearances and wins (55). The 35-year-old has played every minute for the United States in the last two FIFA World Cups. In Brazil this past summer, he twice earned Budweiser Man of the Match honors, including the 2-2 draw against Portugal and the Round of 16 game against Belgium in which he posted a World Cup-record 15 saves.
“This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the No. 1 spot,” said Klinsmann. “We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time. Always when somebody steps aside for a moment, it gives an opportunity for the next ones in line.”
The U.S. Men’s National Team will travel to face the Czech Republic on Sept. 3 in Prague, marking the first match for the United States following the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The match will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network and UniMas. Fans can also follow on Twitter @ussoccer.
While Howard’s decision to spend more time with his family may be valid, the jeopardy is that the “spending more time with the family” line is such a common phrase used in public relations. It often masks the real reason for the change.
In Howard’s case, perhaps he genuinely does want to spend more time with his family. But if so, why did he decide to take on the position with NBC Sports as a studio analyst and occasional co-commentator?
For Howard, perhaps today’s decision may be the beginning of the end of his international career. Instead of abruptly retiring from the game, he has opened the door for his goalkeeping colleagues to try to take the position away from him. If so, it’s an admirable step by a leader for the US Men’s National Team.