Tim Howard Exclusive: Team USA Keeper Talks Italy, Klinsmann, Everton and EPL

Will Tidey@willtideySenior Manager, GlobalMarch 1, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 08:  Goalie Tim Howard #1 of the USA defends the goal against Honduras at Sun Life Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

U.S. international goalkeeper Tim Howard was back home in Manchester when I caught up with him on Thursday evening—tired and happy after playing a full part in Team USA's hugely encouraging 1-0 win against Italy.

Howard made a key save early on in Genoa and didn't put a glove wrong all night to help bring about the first U.S. win over the Azzurri in 11 attempts—and one of U.S. soccer's most satisfying results.

Here's what Howard had to say about that Italy win, international life under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann and how things are going in the Premier League with Everton this season.

Will Tidey: Hey Tim, congratulations on a great win last night. Was it as big a surprise to you as it was to most football fans out there?

Tim Howard: We went into the game knowing it was going to be difficult. We were playing one of the top teams in the world and it was always going to be a heck of a challenge. But Jurgen Klinsmann has asked us to rise to challenges and fight against these teams. Some days you do that and you get a result. Whatever happened, we expected to give a good account of ourselves.

WT: Tell us a little bit about life under Jurgen Klinsmann. Have you noticed a big change from the Bob Bradley regime? If so, in what areas?

TH: It's hard to compare the two. The team camaraderie under Bradley was really good and our results were good, too. Jurgen brings a freshness and a new set of ideas—some of which are revolutionary. It's exciting times and we're continuing to build on the work Bradley did.

GENOA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 29:  USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks on prior to the international friendly match between Italy and USA at Luigi Ferraris Stadium on February 29, 2012 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

WT: There's been a lot of talk about the young players coming through the national team pipeline under Klinsmann—guys like Fabian Johnson, Brek Shea and Danny Williams. How excited should we be about the next generation of U.S. talent?

TH: Very. They've been fantastic. They've come in and been a breath of fresh air. We were a team that was getting older and we needed to freshen up. Jurgen has brought in some wonderful new faces. They're hungry, eager and the best bunch of guys you could wish to be around. And they feel a sense of urgency to prove their worth. Jurgen has trusted them and they'd done well to take the bull by the horns and show him they're ready.

WT: The U.S. has put away Spain and Italy during your time in goal—the last two World Cup winners. Is it fair to say anyone is beatable for the U.S. side now? What do you think is a realistic goal for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Should you qualify as expected?

TH: Obviously we plan on getting there. The exercise in place right now is only going to bear fruit. Jurgen has tried to challenge us and asked us to prove ourselves. In Brazil, there won't be any easy games, which is why Jurgen doesn't agree with playing easy games in preparation. If we can play the top teams and consistently put in good performances, we can go into a tournament believing we can get out of the group stages—even if we come up against three strong teams.

WT: Let's talk tactics. As a goalkeeper, you see everything in front of you. Are you most comfortable with a holding midfielder shielding your defense? It looked like you had two against Italy in Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley. Does that make things easier for you?

TH: I think we did a good job playing with two traditional No. 6s last night. They form a box and it's the engine room for us. The two guys did a great job defensively and it's important you have strength in the belly of the team.

WT: Let's turn to life in the Premier League. Everton are on a great run right now—you're unbeaten in seven and you've recently enjoyed wins against Manchester City and Chelsea. You're also through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. The club doesn't spend a lot of money, but still David Moyes gets his team doing the business. What's your secret at Goodison Park?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Tim Howard of Everton dives to block the attempt on goal of  Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on February 11, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Ph
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

TH: Firstly, we've got a fantastic manager in David Moyes. He brings in the right kind of guys. You can't just go spending money on guys because they look sexy. You need guys who'll dig in and roll their sleeves up. I'm a firm believer that if you have a bunch of guys who are fighting for the cause, you can start to punch above your weight and exceed expectations.

WT: Who is the best striker you've gone up against in your time in England?

TH: The No. 1 guy is Didier Drogba. For me, he's so powerful, he hits the ball well with both feet, he's strong in the air. He's a monster. You know you're in for a long 90 minutes with him.

WT: Who do you think will win the Premier League title this season?

TH: I don't think you can count anyone out right now. I see United and City pushing each other to the line. Everyone's putting their money on City, but United know how to get it done at the end of the season. United have the winning mentality. City have been fantastic, though. It's too hard to call. Just one little mistake could make the difference.

WT: David Moyes is often tipped as as possible successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at United. You know both men very well, of course. Are they similar characters? Which would you rather not upset?

TH: They're both fiery Scotsmen who don't take any nonsense. I wouldn't want to upset either of them! I'm afraid of David Moyes, and I try not to get on his bad side. Ferguson is the greatest coach of all time and someone who works day and night. He's always working, always plotting and scheming to make things happen. So for Moyes to be compared to him is a massive compliment.

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 21:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea FC in action during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between SSC Napoli and Chelsea FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 21, 2012 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Imag
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

WT:  Do you think you'll see out your career with Everton? By Brad Friedel's standards, you could still have eight years left at the highest level, maybe more. Could you ever be tempted by a move to Europe? Or perhaps a return to MLS?

TH: I don't really want to play that long. It's good to have longevity, but there are other things I'd like to do with my life and career. I find it difficult talking about moving to other clubs. I love it at Everton and my ambitions can be met here. I've played the best football of my career there and it's a wonderful place. It matches my thoughts and beliefs on football. Anyone who's been touched by the club will know that. When it comes to MLS, I just can't say. Time will tell.

WT: Finally, what do you miss most about life back home in the U.S.?

TH: I've been here [in England] nine years, most of my adult life. I enjoy it, but I miss the little things about home—the restaurants, my family, the anonymity. Just that quiet peacefulness. That and the weather!

WT: Thanks, Tim. It was a pleasure talking to you and I know the Bleacher Report readers seriously appreciate your time. Good luck with Team USA's World Cup qualifying campaign and here's to Everton lifting the FA Cup in May.

TH: Now that would be great. Thanks, Will, really enjoyed the chat. And I know Bleacher Report well.