Tim Howard, the US national team keeper for the last two World Cups, is taking a year-long sabbatical to spend more time with his family. He's expected to return and compete for a spot on the national team in September 2015, but will miss this year's remaining international friendlies as well as next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Despite Howard's brilliant performances during this summer's World Cup, national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that when he returns, “he has to prove that he deserves to be back.” At the same time, Klinsmann said he understands Howard's decision to spend time with his family during the softer parts of Everton's Premier League schedule, which opened last week.
“I told him as long as he's 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,” Klinsmann said.
In a prepared statement released through the US soccer federation, Howard said: “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. … 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 looked forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”
Howard's 55 wins and 104 appearances at keeper are both the most all-time in US history. His 35 shutouts rank second all-time.
Howard's decision opens up the door for Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), the team's second-choice keeper this summer in Brazil. He's expected to start in Howard's absence when the US faces the Czech Republic in Prague on Sept. 3. It's the team's first match since Howard set a World Cup record with 16 saves against Belgium in the first knockout round.
"Physically and mentally I feel as strong as ever," Howard added. "I'm also 35 years old and it's four years before the next World Cup. If I want to be able to get to the next World Cup, I also have to be smart about managing my body."