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USMNT: Who Should Start in Goal for the Yanks Moving Forward?

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 03: Goalkeepers  Tim Howard (R) and Brad Guzan of US national soccer team during traiining session at Pilditch Stadium on June 3, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2013

Over the last few months, there has been one debate about the United States men's national soccer team that has divided fans and critics alike. 

That debate is whether or not manager Jurgen Klinsmann should keep Tim Howard as his starting goalkeeper or replace him with Brad Guzan

Howard succeeded previous No. 1 keeper Kasey Keller back in 2007 before that year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and, up until last year, he has not had a clear challenger for his position in the Yanks' starting 11. 

Guzan has certainly paid his dues on his way to becoming "option 1a" for Klinsmann when the manager selects his squad. 

The 29-year-old started gaining attention when he played with Chivas USA in Major League Soccer and, after transferring to Aston Villa in 2008, he began to ply his trade in the league where American goalkeepers have excelled for the last two decades.

After spending time behind veteran Republic of Ireland keeper Shay Given at Aston Villa, Guzan was handed the permanent position at Villa Park after he re-signed with the club during the summer of 2012. 

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Brad Guzan of Aston Villa in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on September 14, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

While many will describe Villa's 2012-13 campaign as disappointing as a whole, the one player who consistently stuck out to the outside observer was Guzan.

Even when his club were thrashed 8-0 by Chelsea last season, Guzan's efforts were praised because of how many big saves he made.

With Guzan having the best season of his career in the Midlands (up in Northwest England on Merseyside), Howard had far from a career year with Everton

Adding to the questioning of Howard's play was the disastrous defense played at times by the United States that left Howard picking the ball out of his own net more than he expected during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. 

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02:  Tim Howard #1 of the United States Men's National Team makes a save in the second half against Miroslav Klose #11 of the Germany Men's National Team in an international friendly at RFK Stadium on June 2, 2013  in Washington, DC.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Now with qualification sealed for next summer's 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the debate on who should start between the pipes for the Yanks is at its highest point yet. 

Guzan has begun his 2013-14 English Premier League campaign for Villa with two clean sheets, including one against Norwich City on Saturday that saw him save a penalty and make two other saves that kept Villa ahead. 

Not to be outdone, Howard has started strong with three clean sheets in Everton's first five league matches, and it seems like he has responded well to the imminent threat of his job being stolen away from him just nine months before the biggest tournament on the planet. 

Even if Howard continues his fine form for the rest of the season, his job is not totally safe given the history of his current national team manager

Right before the 2006 World Cup as manager of Germany, Klinsmann dumped veteran keeper Oliver Kahn to the bench in favor of Jens Lehmann

Klinsmann also has a history of benching veteran players during his time in charge of the United States, as former captain Carlos Bocanegra has gone from a consistent starter to an afterthought in less than a year. 

Jurgen Klinsmann has a difficult decision on his hands before the 2014 World Cup.
Jurgen Klinsmann has a difficult decision on his hands before the 2014 World Cup.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Luckily for Howard, he will not see the same plight as Bocanegra because he plays in a top league in Europe and has seen consistent playing time as a starter. 

One has to think that if Klinsmann were to make a decision on swapping Howard out for Guzan, it would come a month or two before the Yanks take off for Brazil.

Time will tell if Klinsmann wants to shake up his side and please a large amount of fans by handing Guzan the job of No. 1 keeper. But if Guzan's recent form continues and Howard's form even slips up just a bit, it will be hard to justify keeping Howard ahead of Guzan on the depth chart going into Brazil. 

One thing is for sure: Whoever takes charge in goal for the Americans at the World Cup will be a world-class keeper from the English Premier League. 

 

Who do you think should start in goal for the United States moving forward? 

Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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