United States goalkeeper Tim Howard believes Bruce Arena's return to coaching the national team will give the Americans a boost in World Cup qualification and make players better understand the importance of wearing the country's colors.
The U.S. began the Hexagonal phase of CONCACAF qualifying under Jurgen Klinsmann last year with a pair of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, respectively.
And Howard, 37, said the team have put themselves in a "situation" that they'll need to navigate under Arena in order to reach the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
The Colorado Rapids keeper admitted that the start to qualification was not good, but he says there is still plenty of time to right the ship under Arena to ensure the team doesn't miss its first World Cup since not qualifying in 1986.
"You have to navigate [qualifying], it's never easy," Howard said. "Last time, we went away to Honduras, and we lost, and it was doom and gloom. But we just have to navigate this. We need two really good results [in March].
"We've put pressure on ourselves, but I think the change in manager will hopefully give us that boost that we need and get us back to basics. The problem is, teams around CONCACAF smell blood because it's always been us and Mexico. Teams see us lose a couple games and they get excited.
"Panama is going to be excited and can't wait to play us, so we're going to have our work cut out for us."
The arrival of Arena could be the impetus to motivate the team, according to Howard, as he brings the experience of having managed the U.S. for eight years and two World Cups between 1998 and 2006.
"Bruce will bring an attitude back to the team where wearing the U.S. shirt will matter again," Howard said. "It will mean everything, and that's always been our foundation. No matter how good you think [the U.S.] has gotten at soccer, our foundation has always been our willingness to work hard, to go to tough places and put in a shift, and I think we got away from that a little bit."
On the departure of manager Jurgen Klinsmann last November, Howard said he felt the German-born manager was given too long of a leash in seeing the team through two World Cup cycles from 2011 to 2016 and that his voice had lost some of its authority in the dressing room.
"I think that, when you have a national team, [the manager] should have a four-year reign and that's it," he said. "You can't buy and sell players, you are picking from the same player pool and the voices get old. The ideas can become kind of stagnant and you need that change.
"I don't think that one thing in particular went wrong, but I think with the national team you need a change.
"I think it's been a while since [Arena] has been in charge, it's been 10 years, and as I said, we are in a situation, and we need to bring in someone who understands the position we are in, understands CONCACAF, understands the U.S. player and understands what it's like to go to some of these tough places and qualify for a World Cup, which he's done twice."