Football: Goalkeeper Howard takes break from US duties

Football: Goalkeeper Howard takes break from US duties
US goalkeeper Tim Howard at a football match between Belgium and USA at during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. His stellar performance in a round-of-16 loss to Belgium was considered the high point for Americans in their World Cup run in Brazil.

CHICAGO - Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard announced Thursday that he will be taking a one-year break from international duty with the United States.

Howard's stellar performance in a round-of-16 loss to Belgium was considered the high point for the Americans in their World Cup run in Brazil two months ago. The 35-year-old has 104 caps and played every minute for the US at the past two World Cups.

But Howard said he needs a break from international play to spend more time with his family and made the decision after speaking with US coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

"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 said.

"I am grateful for the willingness of both Jurgen Klinsmann and Everton manager Roberto Martinez to afford me the opportunity to spend time with my kids. It's the right decision at the right time.

"Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot." Klinsmann said he supported Howard's decision to not be available for selection until September of next year, even though it means he would miss next year's Gold Cup.

"We had a very good and productive conversation. I totally understand Tim's situation," Klinsmann said. "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 football until after next summer's Gold Cup and then we re-evaluate.

"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." But Howard knows there is a risk attached as well. Former US forward Landon Donovan was unable to win back a spot for this year's World Cup after a break from the US squad.

Howard could miss up to eight friendly matches as well as the Gold Cup next year, but his absence will allow Klinsmann a greater chance to look at other goalkeepers.

"This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the number one spot," Klinsmann said.

"We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time." The Americans will play the Czech Republic on September 3 at Prague in their first match since the loss to Belgium at the World Cup.

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