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Tim Howard taking a break from U.S. international duty

Aug 21, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

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It’s not a retirement, but it is a reassessment, one that shows a new perspective for a man entering the final stage of his career. After a stand out 2014 World Cup, Tim Howard has elected to take a break from United States national team duty, U.S. Soccer announced this afternoon, with family becoming a greater priority for a player who has spent most of his professional life abroad.

“Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time,” Howard explained, in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “It’s the right decision at the right time.”

That decision will take Howard out of international consideration until September 2015. The 35-year-old will miss up to eight friendlies as well as next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

When he returns, his starting spot won’t be guaranteed. Despite that looming challenge from Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan, it’s a policy Howard endorses.

“[Head coach] Jurgen [Klinsmann] has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place,” Howard noted, “which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”

[ RELATED: Opportunity for Guzan, Johnson and Hamid ]
[ RELATED: Howard, Donovan comparisons too thin ]

That there is a firm return date should assuage the notion this will lead to retirement, though with a year of only club duties on his schedule, Howard may find his new life much different from the one he’s lived since debuting for the U.S. 12 years ago.

In that time, the former MetroStars and Manchester United goalkeeper has accumulated a record 104 caps for his national team, starting for the U.S. at the last two World Cups. He’s also enjoyed only periodic breaks, with frequent travel from northern Europe back to the Americas a constant stressor for the U.S. number one.

Jurgen Klinsmann, from U.S. Soccer’s announcement:

“We had a very good and productive conversation. I totally understand Tim’s situation. He was very straight forward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that. He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it’s absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer’s Gold Cup, and then we reevaluate. I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back.”

Given Howard’s quality, that shouldn’t be a problem, particularly considering the tests that await this season at Everton. But as we saw when Landon Donovan took a break from soccer in early 2013, even the biggest stars leave with no guarantees.

Thankfully, Howard’s not taking a break from soccer. He’s just taking a break from the international game, for now.

  1. jumpov - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Brad will play and perform admirably.

  2. digbysellers - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    While I’m sure the comparison between Donovan taking a leave and Howard doing the same are inevitable, they’re really not apples to apples whatsoever. Howard is not going to be missing games of real importance until the Gold Cup and that’s certainly fine in my book. Guzan is more than capable and Howard has earned the right to a break if he so chooses. Donovan did as well, but he choose to take his break at a much more important time in the cycle and that’s why I had more of an issue with his time off. When Timmy comes back, if he’s still good enough he’ll get his spot back which has been explained to him. Seems pretty reasonable to me all around.

    • bubbaamyt - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      It also opens the door for Bill Hamid in addition to Guzan. Keep an eye on Hamid, the kid is a serious physical freak.

      • mikeevergreen - Aug 23, 2014 at 1:00 AM

        So is Sean Johnson. The only difference between Hamid and Johnson is that Hamid has a central defense in front of him. Johnson has silly putty, one piece of which was traded to Chivas today.

        Good riddance, John Kennedy Hurtado.

  3. troy2 - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    It was that creepy guy who hugged him.

  4. drewvt6 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    Good for him.

  5. rjbailey - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    Reblogged this on Locating Frankenstein's Brain.

  6. granadafan - Aug 22, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    The US has been blessed with world class keepers. I’m interested in seeing who the next star minding then net will be. Guzan is capable but not in the same class as Howard.

  7. mikeevergreen - Aug 23, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    Howard has an extremely full plate this time around. Family, plus Everton is in Europa League, which one would think that Howard will be between the pipes for those games. This guy wants to win a title of any sort, and Europa (up to 15 extra games) could be his best chance to lift club hardware. Lifting that hardware now gets you an auto bid into the Champions League.

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