GK Guzan remains U.S. starter as Howard returns

Brad Guzan (pictured) won the Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has said performances in a pair of September friendlies would influence his final squad selections for next month’s CONCACAF Cup match-up against Mexico.

However, that won’t include a decision on his starting goalkeeper.

Despite Tim Howard’s return to international football this week after taking a self-imposed hiatus following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Klinsmann said Brad Guzan will remain the first-choice custodian through the October 10 match that determines CONCACAF’s representative in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

“Brad is the No. 1, Tim is the No. 2,” Klinsmann confirmed Wednesday. “Tim accepted that because he was gone for more than a year from the team. And then once, you know, we’ve got the Mexico game hopefully successfully out of the way, then we can think about how we can split maybe some time.”

First, though, the Americans will host Peru on Friday and Brazil next Tuesday in preparation matches.

After starting for the U.S. in the past two World Cups and making a tournament-record 16 saves in a 2014 round of 16 loss to Belgium, Howard stepped away from the side to focus on family, as well as club commitments with Everton in England.

Guzan has moved into Howard’s starting role for a team that was forced into a special playoff against Mexico by virtue of its Gold Cup semifinal loss to Jamaica in July. Mexico defeated Jamaica in the final to set up the meeting between 2013 and 2015 CONCACAF champions.

Both Guzan, 30, and Howard, 36, insist there won’t be tension now that their former roles are reversed for the time being.

“Him and I get on really well, in terms of on the field and off the field,” said Guzan, who also plays in England with Aston Villa. “Your job as a player doesn’t change. You have to go and perform. You have to go and play. It doesn’t matter whether you have a No. 1 title associated with yourself.”

Said Howard: “Brad’s a good friend, and obviously he’s done very well. The competition has always been good. That’s never been an issue.”

As far as when he may have the opportunity to earn his job back, Howard only said he has “an idea.” But he bristled at the notion he would have to assume a different mentality while waiting for that chance.

“Never been a backup,” Howard expressed. “I think that’s a mentality. I work my tail off every day. I know what it means to compete at the highest level. To have a certain level of excellence, and I do that. I’ve never been a backup. I never will be.”