MIAMI (AP) – Goalkeeper Tim Howard says his decision to leave the English Premier League had nothing to do with being benched at Everton.
It was the chance to play elsewhere – specifically, the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
“It gives me a chance to be in the shop window for the next World Cup,” he said Tuesday. “And the excitement of building something in Colorado. . People don’t care to hear that, but that was the most important thing.”
Howard now faces another fight for playing time – on the U.S. national team.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann declined to say Tuesday whether he will go with Howard or Brad Guzan when the Americans play at Guatemala on Friday in a World Cup qualifier. The return leg is March 29 in Columbus, Ohio, and the U.S. can clinch a berth in the final round of qualifying by winning both games.
Guzan, like Howard, plays in the Premier League – for Aston Villa. The 37-year-old Howard lost his job at Everton to Joel Robles and hasn’t played in a match since Jan. 24.
“Everything’s a factor,” Klinsmann, speaking from training camp at Barry University, said when asked about Howard’s two months of inactivity. “We follow every player, no matter if they are playing in Europe, Mexico or in the MLS. You want them all to do well. You want them all to make statements through their club performances.”
Klinsmann expressed confidence in both Guzan and in Howard, who started for the U.S. at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
“We have the highest respect for Tim and Brad,” he said. “Having a player like Tim back in our group is huge because of his experience. Is it more ideal if he (were starting for Everton)? Absolutely. … He’s played I don’t know how many hundred games in the Premier League. He knows how to deal with (inactivity). He is calm. He is a top professional.”
Howard signed with Colorado on Sunday and is to join Colorado when the transfer window opens in July.
“I was excited to put pen to paper,” he said.
Howard said it would be wrong to conclude he left Everton because of his reduced role.
“I don’t think it played much of a factor,” he said. “That seems the easy reason on the outside. I had two years left at the club that I love, and I planned on playing those out . until this opportunity came up. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Howard signed with Colorado through the 2019 season.
Meanwhile, Klinsmann said he felt good about the chances of midfielder Fabian Johnson and forward Jozy Altidore being ready to play. Altidore injured a hamstring last month and returned as a 77th-minute substitute Sunday for Toronto. Johnson injured a groin Friday playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“They are not 100 percent yet,” Klinsmann said. “Hopefully by Friday, they will be close to 100 percent.”
– By WALTER VILLA, AP Sports Writer
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