Howard turning focus to Gold Cup while preparing for familiar friendly foe

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Photo by Rich Schultz/ISIphotos.com

By JOHN BOSCHINI

CARY, N.C. – Over the last few years, Tim Howard has had no shortage of memorable moments in a United States jersey. His performance in the 2-0 upset of Spain in the 2009 Confederation Cup, a kick in the ribs courtesy of Emile Heskey during the World Cup in Rustenburg last June, and, nine days later, the throw that initiated perhaps the most famous moment in American soccer history spring quickly to mind.

For Howard, though, a friendly played in June, 2008, still sticks out in his mind. In front of a sold-out Giants Stadium, Howard made seven saves to hold then-top-ranked Argentina to a 0-0 draw in the final game before the start of World Cup qualifying.

“I get to thinking about it more as the game comes up. I think it’s certainly up there close to the top as far as career highlights,” Howard said. “The opponent, the location and the tremendous pride I feel when I pull on the national team jersey came together for one individual performance.”

On Saturday, the New Jersey native gets a second shot at Argentina, now ranked fourth in the world, when the two teams clash at New Meadowlands Stadium. Howard says he’s looking forward to a rematch with the international giant but is also aware of the increased expectations the last two years have brought.

“It’s always fun when we play at home and we see these big, huge American football stadiums sold out or close to being sold out. It’s a pretty cool thing for soccer in America,” Howard said. “There’s a level of expectations fans have set now for themselves and for us. They pay good money to come see a show and it’s up to us to dig in and put in a good performance as a team and get results.”

Despite the stature of the opponent and the massive crowd set to be on hand, Howard knows that these friendlies are just that, friendlies, and the main focus is winning this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and getting into the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.

“Hands down we want to win the Gold Cup,” Howard said. “I think that we would be selling everyone short to say that we haven’t made that a priority for ourselves. Nothing short of getting into the final and winning it is going to be deemed a success.”

Part of the long-term success for the national team is an infusion of youth into an aging defense. New York Red Bulls standout Tim Ream, 23, and Leeds United's Eric Lichaj, 22, are set to take on more substantial roles, and Howard knows how important it is to integrate new additions as quickly as possible.

“The most important thing is time of the field, opening lines of communication and figuring out what helps each other go,” Howard said. “Sometimes you have to do it in the thick of games but in the course of two, three and four years, when you come to the end of the road it usually pays off.”

Both at Everton and when playing for the USA, Howard has developed a reputation as a vocal goalkeeper. It’s not uncommon to see the 32-year-old charging out from the net to confront a defender about a missed tackle or blown assignment. It’s a style that Howard thinks defenders, both for club and country, have grown to respect.

“They know I’m not a bad guy and most of the time I’m a friend to them,” he said. “It’s gotten to a point where they feel they can give it back to me, and that’s a good sign because I dish out enough criticism and praise. I feel like they take it positively.”

In the end, the mission for Howard and whatever defenders he’s playing behind is very simple.

“That’s to keep the ball out of the net. It doesn’t matter if it’s by hook or by crook, you have to do it.”

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29 Responses to Howard turning focus to Gold Cup while preparing for familiar friendly foe

  1. brad guzan says:

    hes the man

  2. Jim says:

    Still dont understand why goalies in soccer yell and belittle their defenders for defensive lapses. No need for it

  3. fischy says:

    It’s how they convince coaches they are in the game and full of fire.

  4. Phil says:

    As a former keeper I was always cached that this was an important part of the position. It’s about creating accountability and establishing leadership on the field. Most folks get it, but I understand how to some it looks mean. it’s not mean to be.

  5. dorg says:

    coached – doh

  6. Flaveur says:

    I used to get reamed out by coaches for not yelling at my defense constantly. I would yell when a guy was open, but if a goal went in there is no real point in yelling. A quick, normal conversation on the field works just fine.

  7. Lester says:

    I get why goalkeeper’s should be vocal and communicate to their defenders. But as a former defender I never liked being yelled at by a keeper for a mistake.

  8. jts says:

    Biggest beef with Howard. Not all do it.

  9. JOMA says:

    It’s a certain style, or type. I’ve known many extraordinary keepers from Argentina’s Fillol to Edwin van der Sar who are not “yellers”.
    Then again I think in general American keepers are more vocal a la Peter Schmeichel.

  10. jts says:

    I agree.

    Ever see a defender yell and scream and belittle a keeper after a mistake?

  11. Jim says:

    It’s not the “mean-ness” that makes it unnecessary imo, it’s the fact that screaming at your teammate during the game might scare the guy more than helping him. If you’re going to scream and yell to get your point across, do it at halftime or after the game. Don’t do it on the field for the entire world to see. You never see goalies in hockey yell at their D-men for making costly mistakes. To each their own I suppose

    (SBI-Jim, this is pro and international soccer we’re talking about, not youth soccer. Some goalkeepers yell at their defenders to get them to focus, and if it’s coming from a respected goalkeeper, it usually has the desired effect. Any pro defender who would be “scared” by his goalkeeper screaming at him probably wouldn’t have a job long.)

  12. Gerald says:

    There’s a difference between yelling at a player and yelling to a player. Some people don’t realize the difference especially if you don’t know what was said

  13. Colin says:

    that’s because you can’t see their face through the goalie mask.

  14. Erik the Orange says:

    TIMMAY!!!!

  15. DC Josh says:

    I don’t think goalies should be captains, but Timmy would be the best captain we have, as much as everyone loves Boca.

  16. colin says:

    It is all about creating accountability. As a college goalkeeper myself, 95% of the time I yell it is because of a lack of effort or communication (by communication I mean, where one person steps up says that got a man/the ball, takes charge, makes a decision and deals with the threat). Sometimes players have resented my very vocal nature but the majority of the time teammates come to understand and respect it. Once they buy into I feel my defenses have been very cohesive and generally strong. I do think it is very important for goalkeepers to provide constant positive feedback as well, if your just giving out negative then your just going to breed resentment and not be as effective as a vocal leader.

  17. CoachK says:

    Hi Guys

    As an ex coach I ALWAYS told my keeper to be extremely vocal the whole game. He is the only person who should never have his back to the ball. (except if he gets it out of his net) Kudus to you Colin you R 100% correct. We won the Flite Championships and a slew of others and it was not from being timid. A goalie yelling tells his D where to go, who to mark etc. It also deters the opponents somewhat hearing a keeper screaming MINE just as they are about to head home a possible goal.

    All that said time to take a big step back and pause. The USMT sadly are slow(Bocca) disorganized and inexperinced in the back and sadly I think Argentina esp (Messi) will capitilize and exploit us badly.But time willhopefully improve us on another day at another time..just I don’t see us doing it now…

  18. Jack says:

    If you’re the last line of defense between the other team and the net in a game, your adrenaline is running, and everyone is counting on you to keep a clean sheet, I can see wanting to yell a bit.

    I think that there is also a difference between yelling and belittling. The keeper is responsible for keeping his defense in order, and sometimes you have to get a point across in a way that makes an immediate impact–it’s the same reason why coaches yell. The NT clearly respects Howard and, judging from the off-the-field stuff that we have access to, seem to be good friends with him. If he was belittling them, I don’t necessarily think that that would be the case. It’s a style, and not everyone agrees with it, but I don’t think that it’s meant to be negative, at least not coming from Howard (then again, I’m not exactly the one getting yelled at).

  19. Bobby says:

    Lobadalobada TIMMAAYYY!!!

  20. Brent McD says:

    Timmy really was exceptional that night in Giants Stadium. He may have to turn in a repeat performance this Saturday for the US to have a chance.

  21. Josh D says:

    It’s not getting scared… It’s if you’re having a poor game and your nerves are shot, getting yelled at only makes it worse. You only need to watch games to see the defeat on some professionals’ face to understand that. They’re tough, but letting a goal in and then getting reamed does get you emotional when your heart is in the game.

    Anyone who has played at the top knows that. It’s all about emotion.

  22. Dan Murphy says:

    Anyone have highlights from the 2008 game? I can’t find them on YouTube!

  23. Whitehartlane says:

    We need to bringing a new keeper along, Howard, along with a completely tired Mikey, really cost us at the WC against Ghana (Mikey’s “pass” to my man Rico Clarke and then his trot around him up the park, not backing up) are things that remain long in memory.

    That someone is not Dad’s boy Guzan either, although he played well on occasion). Just a fresh face, these are only friendlies, someome from MLS perhaps. At the end of the day, we know what Howard can do.

  24. GW says:

    I guess you’ve never played keeper.

    Many teams demand their keepers be vocal. He is the only one who can see the entire field. He damm well better be telling the defense what is going on.

  25. GW says:

    Why do you all assume you have any idea what a keeper like Howard is actually yelling or saying to his players?

    It’s amazing how everyone assumes that because of their total understanding of “body language” they have any idea of what is actually being said or communicated on the field.

    If you are going to be playing defense for Everton or the USMNT Howard will be very vocal. If you can’t take it have your soccer mom take it up with Moyes or BB.

    Just be thankful Roy Keane or Pele never played for Everton or the USMNT.

  26. GW says:

    Watch the replay on that goal.

    It was Jay Demerit who escorted Boateng down to the penalty box and then kindly screeened Howard for the shot. MB put Rcio in an awkward position but it was a total team failure.

    But since you seem bent on blaming specific individuals most of the blame goes to Howard, for letting in a very soft near post goal and Demerit who had a lot of time to shut Boateng down or push him out wider but failed to.

  27. GW says:

    Since I don’t watch every single keeper in professional soccer I can’t argue with your statement that “not all” do it.

    I can only tell you I consider what Tim does pretty routine I’ve been watching him for most of his career and the USMNT since 1990. I will agree he “seems” to be upset most of the time, though for all we know he’s talking to the full back about the latest Knicks game ( which would upset most anyone).

    All I know is if Moyes or BB thought it was a net negative they would have stopped it a long time ago don’t you think?

    Besides, think about it, if Demerit lets his man beat him for an easy goal, the stat sheet reads the goal against Howard not Demerit. You’d be pissed off too.

  28. GW says:

    Actually, I have.

  29. inkedAG says:

    You must have been a defender who’s feelings got hurt. ;)