USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!!! AHHHH!!!!1 NOW WE CAN WATCH GUZAN PLAY!!!!! I'm not as big of an antihowardite as some fans are but if you've been paying attention to the Howard v. Guzan goalkeeper battle this past year you are probably elbowing your buddy in the ribs "I wouldn't have a problem with Guzan starting in goal." Admittedly, Guzan has looked very sharp recently but Klinsmann brushed off any idea of Guzan topping Howard back in April. So while Howard is "undoubtedly" number one, if his play drops Klinsmann will characteristically look at the number two. I wouldn't be surprised with either goalkeeper starting in Brazil but the best goalkeeper needs to start next summer. If there's a tie, I'd lean towards the incumbent.
Howard's every non-boring touch from Friday:
Starter: Tim Howard Bench: Brad Guzan Not in 18: Nick Rimando
I naturally assumed that Guzan would start this game after defeating Mexico because there's not a huge drop off between the two goalies. However Klinsmann went with the familiar Howguzando (in that order).
More than most USMNT games that I can recall, Howard had to clear more backpasses early on. Jamaica was pressing high as they needed a win badly to stay in the running so getting an early goal would be huge for them. Howard didn't have any bad clearances and given the circumstances of the pressure and bounciness of the ball, he actually did quite well with them.
In the seventh minute Jamaica sends five Jamaicans and an in-swinger into the box from 30 yards out. Howard isn't too worried about the shot (as the shooter isn't hiding his hand) but he's played Jamaica enough to know that they can score off of set pieces, both directly and in-directly.
The cross is sent in perfectly so that Howard has to deal with both a bounce that could go in the goal (if left untouched) and a redirected header that could slip past him. Here is a picture I pulled off of ESPN's site:
Howard steps up to his six, looking to punch the ball before it reaches a Jamaican. The cross dips right over Cameron and his man (not sure who) then passes an on-rushing Darren Mattocks. Maybe the ball is going wide, maybe it's not but Howard drops his right leg to make a collapse save. Evans proves his brain's worth by being in the right place to clear the ball while Howard watches from eight inches off the ground. Typically I would critique Howard but instead let me explain why this is one of toughest plays in soccer to deal with as a goalkeeper. Today I introduce my alter ego Phil Bagels. Phil occasionally watches soccer and all his goalkeeper knowledge is based off of what he hears a commentator say about goalkeepers.
PB: Howard needs to come out and punch that ball away. BV: Well it's not that easy. The ball is sent in low, is bending towards the goal (which makes it easy to over run), annnd there are several people crashing the goal. If he's lucky enough to seep through the crowd, the punch still isn't guaranteed. If he does punch it cleanly then there's always the chance of a rebound from outside the 18 to lob over a goalkeeper who is now 8-10 yards from the goal. PB: Then he needs just stay on his line and make the save. BV: Also easier said than done! Like the picture I've shown you from ESPN, Howard has multiple shots to deal with from the cross and a variety of players that can head the ball. So he's looking at up to four different shots from different heights, angles, speeds all within a second. It's not like a normal shot where he only has to worry about one shooter. PB: But he's caught out in "no man's land!" (I learned that cool phrase from TV.) He doesn't need to be there. He needs to make a decision! BV: Yes that's ideal but he has an attacking mindset to punch the ball but realizes he can't get it so he gets in the best position he can and ultimately makes a save on the ball. PB: Well it's his job. He needs to do better. BV: What's your job? PB: I don't exist aaaaahhhh!!! *ceases to exist*
Getting caught six yards from goal with your feet on the ground isn't ideal for a goalkeeper but given the circumstances you'd be surprised how often that happens. Another thing that happens way way way too much that does not happen here is a goalkeeper with spaghetti legs who falls when he guesses for a shot. So ultimately Howard does an excellent job on this play. If you took 100 professional goalkeepers 80ish would fail on this occasion.
If I were to knock Howard for something, which I wouldn't do in this situation because it is extremely tough, I would point out how small he makes himself (first picture below) and (gosh I really do hate to say this) I think he could catch it. He reads the ball really well to know Mattocks isn't going to be in play but his left hand overtakes the shot-stopping responsibilities and deflects it when the two hands could cradle the ball. I know this opens a chance for a soft rebound but in this play a soft rebound is the same as a deflect back into the box. I wouldn't always recommend trying to make the save when you are more comfortable deflecting but either result in pushing the ball back into play.
Still, if you watch the on-field highlights, it happens so fast. So all-in-all, Howard does well on this play. Was it perfect? No. Could it have been better? Eh. Perhaps. Could it have been worse? Most definitely. We shouldn't discredit the free kick as it truly was threatening and Howard does a lot better than other goalkeepers.
23rd minute, Howard races front post to gobble up another ball that (because nothing happens) doesn't look dangerous. But imagine if Howard stays on his line, the ball surprises him, bounces back out and..?? All of those realistic hypotheticals get tossed out with his command on the play. And wow who doesn't love a good Howard throw?
Not a full minute later, Howard makes his biggest mistake in the match. A shot from twenty yards out to a step of his right. He can either hop high to basket catch it or knock it straight down and pick up the bounce. The ball has some movement but you can see how low Howard has to scrunch his torso to push this ball out. (Couldn't find a better picture, sorry dudes.)
In the video at the top (2:18), Howard patiently waits for the ball to trickle in the makes a clever bowl out right behind the Jamaican striker. I really enjoyed that.
38th minute, Howard is on top of a free kick that sneaks wide. If he it goes in then wow what a shot. Howard is screaming about something while holding up four fingers (I assume about the four men in the wall). The only thing I can think of is not jumping to head the ball out.
Stoppage time of the first half, soft hands hold a low shot that lead them into half time. You'll notice the twisting of Howard's body signaling this was not directly at him (or he just tripped for some reason). He stops a potential corner kick before the whistle there.
Ninety seconds into the first half Diskerud lazily bounces a ball back to Howard who punts it into the stratosphere with his weak foot. Not a great ball from Diskerud but Howard deals with it like a true professional.
You may have to watch 3:13 a couple times to catch it but a cleared ball finds Howard atop the 18. He picks it up and feigns a bowl to Jones in the middle of the field and skips it out to Besler on left. It's just a small thing but I love this. A smart opponent is always looking trends to take advantage of. Howard is one step ahead of them here.
52nd minute Howard collects a loose ball, rolls it out, only to face a 1v1 twenty seconds later. It's a sharp angle but it's not like Cameron is sprinting to cover the goalmouth so we need a save. Howard doesn't drop to the ground as soon as one might expect because Deshorn Brown still has the option of turning away from the goal and shoot with his left foot. Howard sees this, stays up, and then Brown fires it into Howard.
After a replay of the ALL-STATE GOOD HANDS SAVE OF THE GAME Twellman compliments Howard with making a 93' save in a similar spot that he stopped the 1v1 half an hour ago. The shot a foot right of his head and bounces out and off of Besler's knees. Howard can technically pick this up as it's not an intentional pass nor does it come off of Besler's foot but just in case the referee is dying to help Jamaica score, he boots it from the box. Whistle blows and that's it!
It's easy to forget about a non-goal. Howard gets pressure early and had it not been for the ALL-STATE GOOD HANDS SAVE OF THE GAME we would have forgotten about it. Justin Bryant, a retired American goalkeeper, writes about how a mistake can really mess up the psyche of a goalkeeper.
Part of the problem for goalkeepers is that you have time to think about what you've done in a game during that same game. That's fine if you save a penalty or make an extraordinary save, but not so great when you drop a clanger. An outfield player won't have time to dwell on it. The game is swirling all around him and he has to stay involved. Thinking about a mistake during a game tends to commit it to memory; it's still in your head as you lie awake that night, and likely still there when the next game kicks off. I think this is where the elite goalkeepers differentiate themselves from the rest of us: they can truly forget mistakes and move on.
(The interview is great, btw. Bryant has a really good mind for the game and doesn't write puff statements.)
Howard could have easily been shaken from the play but stays composed for the full 90 and can sit comfortably on the flight back.
7' save: +.20 23' catch: +.04 24' save: +.05 24' no hold: -.10 45 + 1' catch: +.07 47' clear: +.01 52' catch: +.02 52' save: +.09 53' catch: +.05 68' catch: +.04 75' catch: +.07 90 + 3' save: +.07