ST. LOUIS -- Tim Howard looks to have inched ahead of Brad Guzan in the competition for the starting goalkeeper spot on the U.S. men's national team.
Howard took a year off from international play following the 2014 World Cup, clearing the way for Guzan to start the vast majority of games.
Even after Howard returned to the international fold in September, Guzan held on to his spot, including the CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico in October. But U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann announced shortly thereafter that the two keepers would share the starting spot on a rotating basis.
The Americans' first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup takes place on Friday against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Klinsmann announced that Brad Guzan would start the match against the Vincy Heat, with Howard manning the net for the away match against Trinidad & Tobago the following Tuesday.
The match against T&T is by far the more difficult assignment, and hints that Howard is Klinsmann's preferred choice against the tougher qualifying opponents. Publicly, however, Klinsmann is backing both keepers.
"Having Tim Howard back on board, and having Brad Guzan, [having] two very experienced Premier League goalkeepers is big for us," he said at Thursday's press conference. "They live this kind of environment day in and day out in a very, very good league."
When asked about the decision prior to Thursday's training session at Busch Stadium, Guzan insisted that his preparation wouldn't change.
"We train the same, we work hard," said Guzan. "Obviously for me it's a big night because us as a team, we want to get off to a good start in this qualifying campaign.
Guzan declined to be drawn into speculating about what the decision meant in terms of which games he would play for the U.S. going forward.
"I'm sure [the media] will find some way to spin something on it, and make it a big deal," he said of Klinsmann's announcement. "For us, it's just about playing games and trying to win as many as we can."