One position where the U.S. has never really had any major concerns is between the sticks. The transition from Tony Meola to Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller and on to Tim Howard and Brad Guzan has been relatively seamless through time. But as Howard edges ever closer to the end of his illustrious career, and Guzan struggles to get consistent playing time, there isn't a better time than now to look at the future of the position. There are many good potential contenders to take over the #1 pair of gloves, but who is the favorite, and who has the best upside? Let's take a look at the names in the hopper:
Ethan Horvath (Molde): Horvath until recently was a name that didn't get nearly as much buzz, that is until late 2015 and this past year, when his stock exploded upward. After some outstanding performances in the Europa League last season once named the full-time #1 for Molde, he suddenly became not just a name for the future, but a name for the present too. He started the failed Olympic Qualifiers against Colombia, was the third keeper behind Howard and Guzan at the Copa America Centenario, and just earned his first cap and start against Cuba. Playing in Europe certainly gives Horvath an edge as Jurgen Klinsmann loves his players in Europe, and his selection to recent squads gives an indication as to how Klinsmann rates him. He's also only 21, which is incredibly young in goalkeeper terms. At the moment, he seems to be the early favorite to be the guy of the future, but the only caveat is that he has quite a bit of competition.
Bill Hamid (DC United): He has been on the scene since 2010 when he signed with DC as a homegrown player, and has continued to grow into one of the league's best keepers ever since. Though a knee injury certainly halted his momentum, earning a call-up outside of the January camp is a positive sign for Hamid, who has definitely deserved the looks. His shot stopping ability is still second to none, and his ability to organize his defense is also underrated. His first call up came all the way back in August of 2011, when Klinsmann first took over as US boss, but he's only earned two caps since. If he can stay healthy, and potentially earn that long-awaited move to Europe, Hamid certainly has a chance to push Horvath and others for the #1 pair of gloves. He'll be 26 in November, which isn't exactly young but is still spry by goalkeeper standards. Many MLS fans would love to see Hamid earn more USMNT caps, but another MLS keeper may have something to say about that.
David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes): For the longest time, it looked like MLS' two best American keepers were Hamid and the Fire's Sean Johnson. As the Fire have faded into obscurity, so have Johnson's national team chances and a new man has stepped into the fray: San Jose's David Bingham. Bingham is actually older than Hamid by a year and change, but his emergence as one of MLS' best keepers has only come recently. He signed with the Earthquakes in 2011, but didn't play consistent minutes with the Quakes until last year. Since, he's kept a mediocre Earthquakes team afloat in multiple games with his shot stopping and athleticism, and parlayed that into a January camp call-up earlier this year. He doesn't get the same press as Hamid because he plays for a bad West Coast team, however his upside is still just as good and he's still plenty young in goalkeeper years. While he's less likely to leave MLS, he's still a player with an opportunity to seize his chance and earn more minutes for the National Team.
William Yarbrough (Club Leon): Yarbrough's first cap came last year against Denmark after some sensational form for a Leon team that won the Apertura in 2013 and the Clausura in 2014 and a wink and a nudge from Jurgen Klinsmann to change his national affiliation from Mexico to the US. While those two caps in 2015 do seem like a long time ago, his form hasn't really changed, though the return of Tim Howard to the national team fold certainly did block his chances somewhat. He is seven months older than Bingham, again not exactly young but certainly has plenty of time left in his career, but with the emergence of domestic options, his stock has certainly fallen. That's not to say he won't have a chance to mark his name down though; he does deserve the chance to prove himself again. While his road to the #1 keeper spot is certainly tougher than it may have looked 18 months ago, Yarbrough does still have a chance to earn that spot with good play domestically and nationally.
Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew): Now as a fellow Maryland Terrapin, I am biased. I am a huge fan of Steffen's and think his upside is the highest of any of the names mentioned here. However, his career hasn't quite taken off as expected. His performance at last year's U-20 World Cup was nothing short of sensational, which helped him move to Freiburg's reserves in Germany. However, he didn't stick there, and moved back to the States with the Columbus Crew this past summer. He was called into camp for the game against Puerto Rico in May, though he didn't see any game time. In his time at Maryland, and before that with the Union's Academy, he drew Tim Howard comparisons. Those don't come around every day, and when you watch him play, he's certainly earned those accolades. He's not only athletic, but great at organizing his defense and is a fantastic shot stopper too. While immediate game time isn't looking likely in Columbus, he will one day take over for Steve Clark, and then he may fully show some of the promise he's flashed so often. However, he isn't getting consistent club playing time like the four names mentioned above, so his road to the top is considerably tougher. However, none of the options ahead of him have the potential upside Steffen does, so keep him in mind for the future, even if he might be one for the distant future.
And since we can...
Aren't Tim Howard and Brad Guzan still really good? Yes! Howard has revived his career with the Colorado Rapids though he will be 38 in March, and Brad Guzan is only 32 and has looked the part in every test with the US of late. Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to alternate the two depending on the match is a way to split the difference and not have to make a final decision, but Guzan is still likely the guy for Russia. But in 2022, he'll be 38 and more than likely out of the picture. And even if both Howard and Guzan head to Russia, there is still an open spot for someone else, who would be the likely heir apparent to both men beyond the 2018 World Cup. Whether Klinsmann is managing the US then or not is besides the point, but whether it's him or someone else, they'll have plenty of options to pick from to decide who is the next #1 US keeper.
Though there was a time when there may have been concerns about who would be next after Tim Howard and Brad Guzan's time ends, the dearth of options that usually defines the US goalkeeper pool has emerged again, showing the pool is as deep as ever.
Who do you think is the US' keeper of the future?