Howard's leadership from goal will be key for US

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014
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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Tim Howard releases an "Ahhh!" that echoes through empty Stanford Stadium as he makes a diving stop during a basic keep away drill.

True to form, the American goalkeeper is good-naturedly running his mouth about as much as he's running around during World Cup training camp, sporting one of the biggest grins in the group.

During that same warm-up drill, Howard razzed fellow goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando at every chance. Nobody would want it any other way.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is counting on that constant chatter and so much more from Howard to lead an inexperienced U.S. defense into the World Cup opener against Ghana on June 16.

Howard's leadership figures to be crucial next month during a daunting Group G with three tough tests: Ghana, the team that sent the U.S. home from the past two World Cups; Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the Amazon heat; and a match with Germany, the team Klinsmann coached to the 2006 semifinals.

Already among the best goalkeepers of his generation and near the top of England's Premier League, Howard is leaving his mark on U.S. soccer, too.

"We need a Tim Howard that gives them confidence," said Klinsmann, who announced his 23-man roster Thursday. "We need that very vocal Tim Howard. And that's what he's doing. It's fun to watch. He's looking over their shoulder; he gives them advice, not only on the field when we train, but also when they hang out in the cafeteria as a group together. He is making sure that they are confident, that they know what they're doing, and also that they can make mistakes, because nobody's perfect."

Howard also helps keep everybody loose while doing the grueling work that Klinsmann considers necessary to catch up with much of the rest of the World Cup field.

That gregarious style is quite a change for defender Geoff Cameron from his usual goalie with Stoke, Asmir Begovic.

"He's just a different yeller, you could say. I love playing in front of Tim," Cameron said Thursday. "He's got the experience. When he's yelling at you, it's not in a disrespectful manner. It's just telling you directions and he see things differently than what I see. You always want eyes behind you telling you what to do."

During one session, Howard made that dive to his left in front of Rimando of Real Salt Lake and volleyed the ball some 15 yards off his left hand.

"That's the way, Tim!" shouted U.S. goalkeeper coach Chris Woods, who tutored Howard on David Moyes' staff at Everton until last summer.