Tim Howard: under siege these days at Everton.
Every Tuesday I go out with some buddies to a local (and soccer-friendly, of course) pub. We carefully review important things happening in our world: health care reform, the latest advances in child development, disappearing refuge of the polar bear … that kind of stuff.
It lasts about four minutes. Then we start talking soccer.
One of my buddies is concerned about the U.S. goalkeeping situation. And they call me the worry wart of the group!
His contention is that Tim Howard has fallen somewhat in form. And it’s true that Everton’s main man has conceded 10 goals in five games (in three different competitions).
My pal’s larger contention is that, while the United States is blessed with ample talent of the glove, there really isn’t a world-class second choice at the moment. Sure, Brad Guzan is a promising understudy at Aston Villa (coming off a terrific evening in Carling Cup competition). Otherwise … well, that’s his point.
He believes all parties (Everton and the United States) would be better served if Howard had someone pushing him – somewhere.
And what about the ever-present possibility of injury? Would anyone feel great about Troy Perkins (the current U.S. No. 3) possibly moving up the pecking order in case of injury before South Africa 2010 next year?
Me? I say spend your "worry credits" elsewhere. Tim Howard will be just fine. They may as well nickname him "Stalingrad" around Everton, because the man is absolutely under siege. In the U.S. camp, he has increasingly become a locker room presence and leader. When players know that others are counting on them, it tends to strengthen resolve and re-supply the stores of confidence.
And in the event of injury before South Africa, I’d wager a large SmokeyMountain D-Ya from my local quesadilla delivery outpost that Brad Friedel would step up. Friedel, like so many others, retired internationally because they could no longer hold up against the double-dipping demands of international play and club play. The trans-Atlantic travel involved in his case made it an easy call. But riding in heroically for your country over a relatively short term in a desperate World Cup situation is the stuff of legends, and I doubt seriously that Friedel would leave his country high and dry.
Heck, Kasey Keller would do the same, for that matter. And Keller has been quite strong in MLS this year, safe as a church on Sunday on all the routine stuff and still capable of pulling off the big save.
The goalkeeping situation? I say here are plenty of other areas in the U.S. camp to fret over. Who's right?