Tim Howard: Lack of passion in U.S. team wasn't just from dual nationals
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Tim Howard sought to clarify his remarks regarding the commitment level of some of his teammates on the U.S. men's national team.
In an interview with USA Today on Tuesday, Howard appeared to question the passion of dual nationals brought in by former U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann and cited that as a reason for the U.S. team's recent struggles, which have them bottom of their World Cup qualifying group after two games.
Howard said that Klinsmann "had a project to unearth talent around the world that had American roots. But having American roots doesn't mean you are passionate about playing for that country."
He later added, "I know there were players that came in that it didn't matter as much to. If you get enough of those players, one or two can get found out, but if you get enough of those players you lose sight of what you are all about. While it was a good idea in theory, it had its flaws."
Speaking exclusively to ESPN FC, Howard insisted that his comments were not directed solely at dual nationals.
"Some of them are [dual nationals], but I think others are players who have their roots here in America too," said. Howard. "It's not exclusive to them because some of our dual nationals have been brilliant.
"Jermaine Jones has been a rock for our national team. He's been one of the heartbeats. Fabian Johnson has been brilliant for us. So, no, that wasn't aimed at any one person in particular."
Howard added that the issue of commitment levels was something that wasn't brought up by the players to Klinsmann when he was in charge, but that in hindsight it should have been. Howard said that in his mind, it remains the single biggest reason why the team has struggled.
"I think that's an issue," said Howard about the team's level of passion. "I think any time you have a team that's disconnected -- no matter what the issue is that brings that disconnect -- when you have that, there's no way you can all be pulling in the same direction."
When asked if there was a divide within the team, Howard continued to call it an "issue."
"I'm an old man and I've seen a lot of things, and what it seemed like to me was there was a lack of passion and desire by certain players to run through a wall," he said. "The national team is my heart and soul. If you take that away from me, you take a piece of my heart.
"I'd do anything to be on the field. I'll play injured, I'll take an injection, I'll do anything. Anything. It's not just me; there are a bunch of players who would do that. But in order to be a great team, in order to be one of the best U.S. teams -- which we have been in the past -- you need everybody, everybody to have that drive, that desire."
Howard was then asked how this lack of fight manifested itself on the field. He responded by saying "wins and losses, bad performances." When pressed further if the problem was not finishing plays or running to the degree required, Howard said: "If you tell me that the team you saw in Costa Rica, or in the Rose Bowl against Mexico, that if you saw a united, committed group then I'll call your bluff. This isn't just about Tim...I call it like I see it."
The challenge of bringing back that grit that has characterized the U.S. team for so long now falls to Arena. Howard thinks he is just the man to bring it back.
"I know Bruce as a coach, as a person," he said. "I've played for him. I know how he organizes his teams, rallies his teams, what he asks of each individual player to bring to the collective group. And without question, there is a loyalty and a passion playing for your country. No one should have to ask you for that. He makes sure we bring it."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.