The United States Men’s National team has been something of an enigma in recent years. Glimmers of hope have emerged like the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the USA stunned Spain and reached the final match where they lost a close heartbreaker 3-2 to Brazil. But then there are more saddening and maddening displays like the U-23 squad’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, or the alarming 2-1 loss to Jamaica this past September which threw America’s 2014 World Cup Qualification hopes in limbo. The team is clearly dealing with consistency issues, but among those worries the one part of the team that has been resoundingly strong in recent times is goalkeeper. Tim Howard is near the world’s best at the position, and the depth and future for American goalkeepers is bright. Will this crucial position be enough to help America finally compete on the global stage?
Tim Howard has been one of the few Americans to establish a successful career in the English Premier League. After impressing at the New York Metrostars, he was awarded a daring move to Manchester United. Still young and under the weight of immense pressure at such a powerful club, Howard failed to impress and was eventually moved on to Everton, still a respectable Premier League club. Since then he has flourished and developed into one of the finest keepers in the world. He now holds the Everton club record for most clean sheets in league matches in a season, and has rightfully earned the starting spot on the American National team. At age 33, he is at the prime age of goalkeepers and has the maturity and ability to lead the team. How far America goes in the next World Cup will be largely up to how well Howard performs, but with him between the sticks, America will have a chance to win every match.
But what makes the American situation so special with their goalies is the depth and future at the position. Two other Americans currently play in the EPL in Brad Friedal and Brad Guzan. Friedal was a former star for America but retired from the National team in 2005. Remarkably he is still performing well for Tottenham at the age of 41. With the signing of Hugo Lloris, a highly rated French international, Friedal may be on the outs soon, but his longevity has been impressive.
Brad Guzan has made a name for himself at Aston Villa. After struggling to break into the starter’s role for roughly five years, Guzan is now the starter at the club at age 28. Although he has performed well, Aston Villa has endured a rough season and Guzan has been called into action far too often. Nevertheless, he is competing at the highest level of the game and is a strong number two keeper behind Tim Howard.
The future of American goalies looks very bright. Two goalies of note include Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid. Both start for MLS clubs and have enjoyed recent call-ups to the national team. Johnson is just 23, and though he was the goat in the unfortunate U-23 Olympic failure by allowing a weak shot to bumble past him in injury time, he has been a force playing at the Chicago Fire. Johnson has been scouted by Manchester United and Everton and could possibly move abroad in the near future.
Bill Hamid plays for D.C. United and has also enjoyed several National team opportunities. A successful product of the D.C. United youth academy, Hamid has been linked to both Celtic and West Bromwich Albion. Only 22, the goalie has fantastic potential and could well become a successor to the American shot-stopper.
Hopefully Johnson and Hamid will both continue to develop and eventually duel it out for the American goalie position. At the moment however, Tim Howard is well entrenched in the side and should remain for the foreseeable future. That future for American soccer does look to be bright, at least in the keeper department.