As the U.S. Men’s National Team rolled into lunch following Sunday morning’s training session, a familiar face was there to greet them.
After speaking at the NSCAA Convention on Saturday, MNT goalkeeper Tim Howard stopped by to catch up with his teammates and the new coaching staff.
“It was great to see everyone,” Howard told ussoccer.com. “I have a few media obligations for MLS out here in LA. It just happens that it coincided with the January Camp. I’m in touch with all of these guys – Michael [Bradley], Jermaine [Jones] and Beas [DaMarcus Beasley]. I speak to them all the time, and obviously I’ve spoken to the coaching staff quite a bit – Bruce [Arena] and Dave [Sarachan] and Matt Reis – and so it was good to get out here, have lunch and just catch up with the guys I haven’t seen in a while. I’m like a little kid again.”
The three-time World Cup veteran had to leave November’s 2-1 World Cup Qualifying defeat to Mexico in the 40th minute after suffering a fracture of the right adductor longus. The injury required surgery about a week later and forced him to miss the remainder of the M.L.S. Cup Playoffs with the Colorado Rapids.
More than two months on from that injury, Howard is on the road to recovery.
“My progress is good. This has always been a 16-week injury and I’m almost at nine weeks now, so I’m looking forward to getting back to preseason training with Colorado and getting fit. I’ve missed the field, so it’ll be good.”
One of a handful of players in the current pool that has experience with Arena, Howard indicated the returning head coach is best suited for helping the MNT rebound on the road to qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“It’ll be a good change for this group,” Howard said. “We didn’t start out qualifying the way we wanted, so the time is now for us. We have to get some results quickly and right the ship. Everyone’s on board with that, so I think it’s exciting to have fresh blood and a new outlook on how we want to play and what we want to do.”
Capped 16 times by Arena from 2002-2006, Howard also gave a view into what all members of the player pool should expect from the winningest coach in MNT history.
“He’s got a very low key demeanor, but Bruce Arena always makes sure that whoever is on the field is pushing themselves and is committed. I think that’s the interesting part about him. He’s soft spoken, and when he asks something of you as an individual or the team he expects it and nothing less than 110 percent. That commitment and the wholeheartedness of this team, which is what we’ve always been about, is exciting.”