Howard: You can't play emotionally against Mexico

Tim Howard has discussed getting the nod over Brad Guzan to start USA’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Mexico and the need to balance one’s emotions when playing against an arch-rival.

Howard played deputy to Guzan at the Copa America in June, but the latter has since found himself starved of first-team football, acting as back-up to Victor Valdes at Middlesbrough. And if Klinsmann was undecided, Howard gave him some persuasion on Sunday evening. Indeed the 37-year-old kept a clean sheet and saved two penalties – from Ashley Cole and Jeff Larentowicz – in the shootout as Colorado Rapids eliminated LA Galaxy and reached MLS’s Western Conference final. Less than one hour later Klinsmann announced Howard would start in Columbus on Friday.

The decision didn’t catch Howard off-guard. Instead, he revealed he and Guzan always prepare for every camp as if they’re both going to play.

“I think it’s a mentality,” the former Manchester United and Everton man told “Both Brad and myself have that mentality. Of course when the manager names a number one it feels good, but I think you have to put your work in every day as if you’re going to play no matter what. I’ve been trying to do that and it’s always nice to get that vote of confidence, but it’s about getting in, switching gears, doing the work, and preparing for Mexico.”

Preparing to face El Tri is, according to Howard, different from any other game.

"You try and focus in on your work, and you hope that in the days leading up to the game you can prepare properly,” he said. “The game against Mexico is full of emotions. You want to play with emotion, but you don’t want to play emotionally. There’s a fine line. We try to keep everything light-hearted, prepare the way we want to prepare, and when it’s time to go, we go.

“Columbus is a great place for us. We keep talking about the feeling around town. They want to have this game, they want to have us here. Every time we land and set foot in the city, we know that it’s game time.”

Provided he plays, Howard will outrank Paul Caligiuri and Carlos Bocanegra and go outright ninth on USA’s list of most-capped players. Eleven of his 110 caps have come against Mexico, winning five, drawing three and losing three.