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June 14, 2014
Tim Howard: words, advice from me to my teammates would be hollow

By Michael Lewis Editor

Tim Howard: "My words would be hollow, because once those lights come on, you kind of have to deal with it, figure it out, find your peace of mind in the chaos."
Tim Howard: "My words would be hollow, because once those lights come on, you kind of have to deal with it, figure it out, find your peace of mind in the chaos."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
NATAL, Brazil -- As the man who runs the defense with his vision and great communication skills, Tim Howard admits he cannot give any advice to his younger teammates who have not experienced the World Cup yet.

Howard is one of only five Americans who have participated in a World Cup entering the USA's Group G opener against Ghana here at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

"My words would be hollow, because once those lights come on, you kind of have to deal with it, figure it out, find your peace of mind in the chaos," he said. "It’s very important. North Brunswick soccer could be in our group and it wouldn’t matter. We have to win the first game. It’s important we have pressure on us. Heaven knows what’s going to happen in the other game. They draw, we win, we top the group and everyone’s happy."

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. The U.S. will certainly take a victory against the African side, considering Ghana has helped usher out the Americans from the past two World Cups.

In fact, the U.S. needs three points and a win in the worst way to stay in contention for the Round of 16, especially since Portugal (June 22 in Manaus) and Germany (June 26 in Recife) could be major hurdles in securing even one point, let alone three.

Actually, the U.S. backline is not that much younger than the one that lined up against the Ghanians in the second round in Rustenburg four years ago. The average age of that foursome -- center backs Carlos Bocanegra (31) and Jay DeMerit (30) and right back Steve Cherundolo (31) and Jonathan Bornstein (25) -- was 29.25. They also had two defenders with previous World Cup experience -- Bocanegra and Cherundolo

The quartet that started in the final friendly, a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla. June 7, has an average age of 28.25. That includes center backs Matt Besler (27) and Geoff Cameron (28), left back DaMarcus Beasley (32) and right back Fabian Johnson (26).

After training with the eight defenders for the past several weeks, Howard was hopeful that a hungry USA side would surprise the world.

"This is a very good group, a light group," he said. "This is a young group with a bunch of stars in their eyes. They don’t know really what to expect so they’re hungry. They’re trying to prove a point."

Or in this game, grab three points from the USA's nemesis. Ghana eliminated the Americans from the last two World Cups.

"We’ve got more athleticism, more pace, and that’s going to be important to deal with Ghana," Howard said.

Howard admitted that he really can't prepare to play a particular team. It's what he does on the day.

"Goalkeeping is instinctual," he said. "There’s not a lot of tape you can watch. You just kind of have to go with your gut. If you’ve been there before you can see it. You need to know individuals and what their strong foot is. But I don’t think you can prepare definitively.

As for Howard's communications skills, if you're a veteran viewer of U.S. national team games, the Everton goalkeeper usually can be found yelling at his teammates.

It's not as bad as it looks.

Yes, sometimes he will throw a curse or two around.

Well, unless he is cursing at his defenders.

"You can't write some of that," Howard said with a smile.

"Often times I'm giving them praise, which I think gets lost in the shuffle. I am usually probably telling them they did something well ... to keep their spirits up. More often than that, I am orchestrating, telling them what I think I see in terms of where the danger is. Sometimes I need to give them a kick in the backside, which happens. When I do it it's with urgency because it needs to be done quickly."

The back four has become accustomed to it.

"It's great. I love it. I welcome it," Besler said. "Any criticisms, even if he yells sometimes for mistakes. ... He never has a negative tone."

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