Howard has fractured bones in back, appears out for next two U.S. World Cup qualifiers.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, March 9, 2013) -- The United States men's effort to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil took another blow when it was learned that starting goalkeeper Tim Howard suffered two bone fractures in his back playing for Everton of the English Premier League.
Everton revealed no official timetable for his recovery, saying only that the injury would keep him out "several weeks," but was not expected to end his season.
"He has two fractures, but they are not bones that are supporting anything. It is off the spine. They are not weight-bearing," Everton manager David Moyes told the media. "It just needs a bit of healing time. It is not like a pure fracture where you need to wait to look at it.
"We don't think he will be out for the season. I read that (Newcastle United's Fabricio) Coloccini could be out for seven weeks (with a similar injury), but we are not sure how long Tim will be out for because, obviously, with a goalkeeper, he has to dive around and hit the ground.
"I have let him go away for a few days. It might be that, if everything goes well, he misses next week's game, as well (against Manchester City) and then, because of the international break, he might be close after the rest because that would be four weeks. It is a question of whether he can cope with the pain. The bones will heal themselves, but it's not good."
The U.S., which lost its CONCACAF qualifying final-round opener 2-1 at Honduras and must replace Howard for a match against Costa Rica March 22 in Commerce City, Colo. (suburban Denver) and four days later against Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
After that, the U.S. does not play again until June in the 10-match final round.
Almost certainly, U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann will turn to Howard's long time backup Brad Guzan, who has become the starter for relegation-challenged Aston Villa of the Premier League. He won the starting job from Shay Given early this season and is having a fine season despite playing behind a laggard defense.
Guzan last started a World Cup qualifier in March 2009, a 2-2 draw at El Salvador. Howard has started every qualifier since. Guzan has 20 international appearances and is 3-1-1 in qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Brad Friedel, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur, third in the EPL, expressed faith in Guzan, but offered his services if Klinsmann should Guzan go down.
"US: YOU ARE IN GREAT HANDS WITH GUZAN!!!!" Friedel wrote on Twitter. "If he was also hurt of course I would consider helping until Tim and Brad were fit!!. . . That is if asked by the way, which I have not been."
Friedel, 41, is a veteran of 82 international appearances and three World Cups for the U.S., but retired from international competition in 2005. He was stellar in helping the Americans reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 Cup.
Howard was a unused substitute in the 2006 World Cup and the starter in 2010.
Howard, 34, suffered his injury in an FA Cup match February 26, a 3-1 fifth-round replay victory over Oldham Athletic of the third-tier League One. He went up for a ball, collided with another player and came down on his back. Initially, the injury was thought to be a bone bruise and muscle strain, but with continuing pain, he was sent for an MRI exam which showed the fractures.
When Howard missed last Saturday's 3-1 EPL victory over Reading, he ended a streak of 210 consecutive league starts.
The U.S. badly needs a victory over Costa Rica in Colorado. It will be a considerable underdog in its visit to Mexico and an 0-3 start would jeopardize the Americans' hopes of advancing to a seventh straight World Cup. Three of the six finalists advance to the Cup, while the fourth-place finisher enters a two-match playoff against opponent, probably New Zealand for a fourth berth.
In addition to Howard's absence, Klinsmann must deal with other defensive worries.
The central defensive pairing against Honduras of Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron was disorganized, while starting right defender Steve Cherundolo missed that game and haqs been sitting out for Hannover 96 of the German Bundesliga following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. His return time is unknown.
Edgar Castillo, who backs up Fabian Johnson at left back, will miss the March qualifiers after suffering three facial fractures for Club Tijuana in Mexico's Liga MX.
Veteran central defender Carlos Bocanegra was on the roster for Honduras, but did not play and has been sidelined for Racing Santander of Spain's second division with a leg issue.
Timmy Chandler, who plays for 1. FC Nürnberg of the Bundesliga, will likely man the right side of defense if Cherundolo can't go. Klinsmann has numerous options to fill out his defensive corps, but most Americans playing overseas have not been seeing regular action with their clubs.
Klinsmannn also has to deal with holes in the attack, including the continued absence of Landon Donovan, his most influential player who has opted out of representing his nation for the time being.
Clint Dempsey, who scored a beautiful goal against Honduras, is nursing a sore leg and has been out for Tottenham. His return is uncertain.