With news emerging from England today that Tim Howard is expected to be out several weeks with broken bones in his back, the defensive woes for the United States men's national team have just gotten a little bit worse.
Howard sustained the injury in an FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic last week but managed to finish the game. Howard did, however, miss Everton’s league match last weekend against Reading and now looks to be out for at least a month.
With the USMNT approaching two critical World Cup qualifiers later this month against Costa Rica on Mar. 22 and Mexico on Mar. 26, all eyes now turn toward who will replace Howard in the net for those all-important games.
The most obvious choice to replace Tim Howard between the sticks for the USMNT is Aston Villa netminder Brad Guzan. Guzan has been enjoying a solid season for Villa ever since winning the job from Irish international Shay Given earlier this year.
Despite Villa’s awful—and sometimes downright laughable—defense this year, Guzan has been one of their few consistent performers, often keeping Villa in games far longer than they deserve to be.
Guzan has started 26 of Villa’s 28 league games this campaign and some USMNT fans were even saying before Howard’s injury that Guzan deserved a shot at the starting job for the national team.
While Guzan has 20 caps for the USMNT, most of them have come in unimportant matches or in games when the first-team squad was not called in. The United States' defensive injury/form woes also make replacing Howard more scary, but if anyone in the USMNT pool is used to having to stand tall while getting shellacked, it’s Villa’s Guzan.
Not suggesting Brad Guzan will make Tim Howard Wally Pipp but you couldn't ask for a backup in better form, given the circumstances. #usmnt— The Yanks Are Coming (@YanksAreComing) March 8, 2013
Nick Rimando has been the de facto third-choice keeper for the USMNT for the last few years and should he be Jurgen Klinsmann's selection to replace Howard, the U.S. will still be in good shape.
Although Rimando has relatively few USMNT appearances (he only has six appearances for the U.S. despite being 33 years old), Rimando may be the best pure shot-stopper in the U.S. player pool. The U.S. could find Rimando's shot-stopping ability particularly useful when they play Mexico at the Azteca on Mar. 26—where they will likely be on their heels for most of the match.
Rimando’s performance last year against the Seattle Sounders in the MLS playoffs was one of the finest overall goalkeeping performances in MLS history, and there is also no questioning Rimando’s toughness; he suffered a broken nose in the game against the Sounders but still finished the match.
Bill Hamid has always been a favorite of USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and, at one point, was even declared by Klinsmann to be the United States' No. 2 in the net over Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando.
Klinsmann made the declaration despite Hamid's relative inexperience, his penchant for silly errors in the net and the fact that both Guzan and Rimando have much more experience than Hamid.
Hamid was given the start for the USMNT in this year’s January camp friendly against Canada and there's no doubt he has boatloads of talent, but he is not ready to be thrown to the wolves in a World Cup qualifier considering his relative inexperience.
Tally Hall is a long shot—a very long long shot—to see the field for the U.S. in its World Cup qualifiers in two weeks, but he is no doubt on USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar.
Hall received his first USMNT call-up for this year's January camp after an outstanding 2012 campaign in which he helped lead the Houston Dynamo to their second straight MLS Cup.
However, Hall did not feature in the match.
Dan Kennedy/Sean Johnson
Who should take Tim Howard's place in the USMNT net for the March qualifiers?
The biggest dark horses in the field of U.S. goalkeepers likely to see any action, or a call-up this month, are Dan Kennedy and Sean Johnson.
Kennedy has been one of the strongest goalkeepers in Major League Soccer in recent years and, despite getting shellacked in 2012 as the keeper for Chivas USA, he was also named the team’s Player of the Year in 2011.
Johnson, who enjoyed a strong season last year with the Chicago Fire, has been a favorite of Jurgen Klinsmann's for some time now, getting call-ups for the last three January camps.
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