The USMNT goalkeeper dilemma

Manas Sood, Sports Editor

The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team has had its share of ups and downs in the last two years following its noteworthy performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A standout player of their final match in Brazil was Tim Howard, who starred for Everton in the English Premier League at the time and in recent years has been ranked amongst the greats of U.S. goalkeeping talent. Look two years after that game in Brazil, and one will notice a significant difference in the players holding down the goal, largely due to the introduction of several new players to the national team goalkeeping pool as well as a decline in performance from some of the country’s finest athletes.

Tim Howard, the primary goaltender for English club Everton, has made over 300 appearances for the Toffees, yet has recently been relegated to the backup position behind youngster Joel Robles due to a recent run of poor form. Brad Guzan, the previously starting goalkeeper for Aston Villa in the EPL, has also been demoted to backup after a season where the club was last in the standings after winning only three out of thirty games. These demotions raised concern from fans and followers alike, including Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who stated, “Every time a player is not getting his playing time with his club team, it’s a concern for the national team. It’s always put into consideration,” but that “the good thing with both Brad and Tim is that they have a tremendous amount of experience.” This demonstrates his faith in their abilities, but still leaves unanswered the question of the recent expansion of the goalkeeping pool beyond Tim, Brad, and Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake, MLS).

Several new prospects have recently been brought into the USMNT camps and have performed admirably, including David Bingham of the San Jose Earthquakes and Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls. Bingham played every single regular-season minute last season and equaled San Jose’s single-season best with 12 shutouts, which was evidently enough to earn him a call-up to the senior team program. Bingham seized the opportunity at hand, preserving the shutout 1-0 win over Canada in February and thus earning praise from Klinsmann who applauded his confidence and steady nerves. Following his strong performances for both club and country, Bingham hopes to join the qualifying squad for the 2018 World Cup over struggling keepers Howard and Guzan; his fate should be revealed soon.

Luis Robles, starting goalkeeper for the local Red Bulls organization, was also invited to the recent January USMNT camp, where he had a chance to showcase his talents in front of the national team staff. He was also able to help the U.S. win 3-2 against a determined Iceland team, and “know[s] it’s a privilege to be part of [the national team].”

With such an abundance of new goalkeeping talent in the USMNT, there should not be any concerns for the state of the goalkeeper position in the near future. With the Copa América Centenario on the horizon, we can expect great things from this year’s national team squad.