HOWARD CONCERNED ABOUT NEW BALL
Add United States national team goalkeeper Tim Howard to the list of players who have expressed concerns over the new ball that will be used at this month's World Cup.
The ball in question is the Adidas Jabulani Official 2010 World Cup Match Ball which is a lighter version of previous World Cup balls.
The tendency for the Jubalani ball to knuckle and bend so much has Howard and his fellow international netminders such as Spain's Iker Casillas and Brazil's Julio Caesar in an uproar.
"The ball's tragic," Howard bluntly stated. "It's no secret. Everyone has said that. Once you get to a certain level, particularly in goalkeeping, you realize there's no excuse. There's going be some crazy goals in this World Cup based on the ball and none of them are going to be called back. As a goalkeeper, I'm just trying to pick up the pace of the ball, trying to find that rhythm and working a lot on that in training."
The Everton man also opined that the change in altitude will factor into the movement of the ball in addition to its lighter weight.
"Not only is it light and it's moving, but it's different now at altitude than it was in the States," explained Howard. "I'm just trying to pick that up, and trying to be safe with my decisions. A lot of balls that are comfortable for me to catch on a normal day aren't. I just need to figure out how to get the ball out of danger. I'm not going to try to hold it, but put into safe areas. I think that's going to be the key for many goalkeepers."
Not only does Howard have to worry about goalkeeping with a new ball, he is also tasked with shutting out one of the world's premier strikers in Wayne Rooney.
The Manchester United star will be spearheading the English attack on Saturday, however the New Jersey native remains confident that the four defenders in front of him will be able to corral Fabio Capello's attackers.
"We've got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time, but we're a good experienced bunch and that's what I hold on to," Howard said of the US back line. "We've had a few injuries in the back which haven't made the last few months easy, but we seem to be getting there. I think the second half of Turkey felt good, just from a defensive shape standpoint.
"Sometimes you feel like you're completely ready and everyone's playing in a rhythm and then it goes pear-shaped on the particular day. It's hard to call, but right now I feel good about the back four, and even back six because we got a bunch of guys who can play back there."
Going up against the Three Lions will be a tall order for Howard and company, however the US' resume of playing big-time opponents in the last two years is extensive.
Howard believes that matches against the reigning European, World Cup and Copa America champions in last summer's Confederations Cup have hardened the squad and that they will be unfazed when the starting whistle is blown on Saturday evening at Royal Bafokeng Stadium
"I think sometimes when you play the best teams in the world like England, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Holland, at times, they're going to make the game, create the tempo and create the atmosphere," he said of the US' recent international opponents. "That's just because they're the best teams and the have the ability to do that. I think where we begin to elevate our game, playing against best teams is that we're comfortable letting them create the rhythm and finding our own rhythm within the game.
"We've done that with Argentina at home, Confederations Cup final last year, and with Spain, the same thing," he concluded. "They created the tempo, but we found our own rhythm within the game. We seem to be comfortable in doing that. When you play the best teams in the world they're going have most of the ball, they're going to usually dominate, and it's up to you not to play outside of yourself. We don't seem to do that. We understand our role very well."
Following Saturday's match versus England, the US will take on Slovenia on June 18th and then Algeria on June 23rd.