It's been 11 months since United States goalkeeper Tim Howard announced that he'd be taking a year off from international soccer. The USMNT veteran decided that a break was needed in order to spend more time with his family. He made sure to clarify that he wasn't retiring and vowed to be back in a year's time. It turns out that the 36-year-old New Jersey native is true to his word as he has told evertonfc.com that he's ready to make his return to the U.S. national team.
"That is the plan [to return soon]. I spoke to coach Klinsmann and we have had open lines of communication as recently as last week. We spoke but obviously they are very busy with the Gold Cup at the moment.
"We will speak again after that tournament finishes and I will make myself available for selection. We will see where we go from there.
"I have missed it. It was a tough decision to make. It has been a good break, but all it has done is really fuelled my fire. I have missed the boys, the competition and playing in front of the US fans."
Brad Guzan was always going to be the heir to Howard's throne, and that proved to be the case when he stepped away from the team. Guzan has performed admirably in Howard's absence. Now that the former No. 1 is returning it could create a selection conundrum for Klinsmann.
Does he stick with Guzan who has done nothing to warrant being replaced? Or does he hand the job back over to Howard, who has the track record of being one of the better goalkeepers in the world over the past decade?
It's a difficult situation, but one that could come down to how each candidate performs at the club level. Both goalkeepers had their share of struggles with their respective clubs last season. Guzan ended the season on the bench after having his starting job taken away for a terrible gaffe in an important game late in the season. Meanwhile, questions of age and regression were asked of Howard when he had a bad run of form for Everton during the middle of the season.
Howard rebounded from his stretch of bad games and Guzan has gone on to lead the USMNT into the Gold Cup. Their competition for the U.S. starting job will most likely come down to how each of them start out the 2015-16 campaign.
With the 2018 World Cup so far away, the smart play would be to stick with the younger Guzan and have the elder Howard in the team as an insurance policy. The question is, would that be an acceptable scenario for the latter? He could very well feel that playing second fiddle is not his cup of tea and decide to walk away permanently. It's a very delicate situation for Klinsmann and one that will have vital consequences on this World Cup cycle.