Tim Howard to start for United States vs. Colombia on Saturday - Klinsmann
GLENDALE, Ariz. - U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann said that Tim Howard will start in goal for the Americans in their Copa America Centenario third place match against Colombia.
Howard has been a backup to Brad Guzan throughout the tournament, but Klinsmann said he wanted to reward the Colorado Rapids keeper for his support of Guzan.
"[Howard] has been outstanding there to help the team go all the way through in this tournament until the final four, helping Brad Guzan wherever he could, keeping the spirit very positive, and pushing from behind," said Klinsmann at Friday's press conference.
Klinsmann added that this shouldn't be considered as any kind of demotion of Guzan. who was culpable on a couple of goals in the 4-0 semifinal defeat to Argentina, with Klinsmann pronouncing himself satisfied with the keeper's play.
"[Guzan has] done tremendously well and he's totally on board with the fact that we give Tim this game," said Klinsmann.
The third place game is often looked upon as an afterthought, but Howard said finding motivation wouldn't be difficult.
"It's not hard to get up for," he said. "It's the third place in the Copa America. No one thought we would be here so it's exciting."
Klinsmann added that he'll play his strongest possible team on Saturday, though injuries may cause him to shuffle his lineup a bit. Fabian Johnson and John Brooks are both struggling with undisclosed ailments.
"We'll see until the very last moment and see how we're going to approach that, which is normal," said Klinsmann, in relation to Johnson and Brooks. "I think every team after five, six games in a row has some injury issues. Some are minor, some are bigger, so the coaches will wait until the last moment to confirm the lineup they want to bring into the field."
That said, it seems unlikely that either Johnson or Brooks will play. Johnson barely participated in Friday's training session, heading straight to the exercise bike as practice began. Brooks was seen heading to the locker room with one of the team trainers midway through the session.
Klinsmann hinted strongly that the three players suspended for the 4-0 semifinal defeat to Argentina -- Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood, and Alejandro Bedoya -- will be back on the field, and that he wouldn't flood his lineup with reserves.
"This game tomorrow is another opportunity for the guys -- before they go in all directions again -- to show everyone that we are growing, that we are getting stronger," he said. "And we want to have that opportunity in such a big tournament to go eye-to-eye with those nations. It's not going to be a friendly game."
Klinsmann also shed some light on why attackers such as Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe haven't gotten more playing time, even though the U.S. has struggled to create chances at times during the tournament.
"For both it's about a learning curve," he said. "Darlington is a bit older than Christian, but I think they can see, even if they just come in for a couple of minutes -- both in the first game and the last game -- that this is another level that we are talking about here.
"When you bring players on from the beginning, you need to make sure they have the confidence to deal with that situation. I think right now for both players, coming off bench, and getting their experience and start the growth process is the right thing to do."
Klinsmann added that he was especially mindful of exposing the 17-year-old Pulisic to too much, too soon.
"I don't' want to burn a Christian Pulisic right now against these top teams from the beginning on," he said. "They are very physical, very intimidating. You want him to get a taste, get another taste, and he will eventually get better over time. This is a natural path that you calculate through as a coaching staff and with their club teams as well. So we don't want to overshoot them right now."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.