Tim Howard spoke at yesterday’s MLS Media Day and shed some light on several USMNT-related topics, mainly the manager switch from Jurgen Klinsmann to Bruce Arena. The veteran goalkeeper didn’t hold back his feelings and his overall excitement about the regime change.
Howard believes that under Arena, the USMNT will work harder as a unit in tough matches like CONCACAF World Cup qualifying away matches than they did under Klinsmann and that it will be the main difference between the two. He told ESPNFC that the after four years, a national team manager’s voice is diminished and new ideas are needed.
"I think that, when you have a national team, [the manager] should have a four-year reign and that's it," he said. "You can't buy and sell players, you are picking from the same player pool and the voices get old. The ideas can become kind of stagnant and you need that change.”
Under Klinsmann, the goal was always to get better at the technical side of the game and it could be argued that mission was accomplished. However, Howard believes that the U.S. lost the fighting spirit that made the national team successful in lieu of trying to play better soccer.
"Bruce will bring an attitude back to the team where wearing the U.S. shirt will matter again," Howard said. "It will mean everything, and that's always been our foundation. No matter how good you think [the U.S.] has gotten at soccer, our foundation has always been our willingness to work hard, to go to tough places and put in a shift, and I think we got away from that a little bit."
Howard’s brash comments didn’t stop there. He also told USA Today that Klinsmann’s attempts to recruit any player with American ties hurt the overall mindset of the team and cause that fighting spirit to fade.
“I think it slips away because you bring in …,” Howard began, before pausing for thought. “Jurgen Klinsmann had a project to unearth talent around the world that had American roots. But having American roots doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country.”
Those are some strong and potentially controversial words that echo concerns from the likes of Landon Donovan and Abby Wambach have voiced through the years.
The fact is, we don’t know what the USMNT locker room and training sessions were like under Klinsmann. An active player coming out and stating this is worrisome considering Howard could possibly play alongside some of the dual-nationals Klinsmann recruited again.
Howard claims that the mentality will surely change for the better under Arena’s watch. Only time will tell if that’s an accurate statement.