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    United States of America

    USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 30-man provisional squad from which he'll select his 23-player FIFA World Cup™ squad.

    The most notable omission is D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson, a regular in the United States' qualifying campaign in North and Central America who has experienced a dip in form.

    USA are drawn in Group G along with Ghana, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2010 edition, UEFA EURO 2012 semi-finalists Portugal and one of the favourites for the trophy, Germany. They will kick off their campaign on 16 June against Ghana. The 30 players will gather in Palo Alto, California, on Wednesday for a training camp at Stanford University, with the final 23-man squad to be decided by 2 June.

    The group includes such stalwarts as goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, defenders Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, midfielders Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi, and forwards Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.

    Klinsmann also included a few players who are hoping to impress in training camp, including forward Terrence Boyd of Rapid Vienna. Klinsmann said he'll be looking hard at current form in making his final decisions as well as how players compete in training camp.

    "There is competition in every position, and these next couple of weeks will allow us to make the final determinations on the best 23-man unit to represent the United States in the World Cup," said the German, who guided his home country to the semi-finals in the 2006 renewal which was hosted by Germany.

    Prior to departing for Brazil, the team will play three warmup friendlies, taking on Azerbaijan on 27 May at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Turkey on 1 June in Harrison, New Jersey and Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida, on 7 June.

    USA squad

    Goalkeepers:
    Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG), Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

    Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Nurnberg/GER), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

    Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/TUR), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

    Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/AUT), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar/NED), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Bradley: I've got freedom now

    Michael Bradley, the United States midfield maestro, could be just the spark the Americans need to escape a formidable first-round group at the FIFA World Cup™. The 26-year-old Bradley, who departed Roma for Major League Soccer side Toronto FC in an estimated $10m transfer in January, scored one goal and set up another in a 2-2 draw against Mexico in April as the USA tried a new attacking formation with great success.

    "Bradley looked as if he was the best player in the world," Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said.

    Bradley is the son of former coach of the national side Bob Bradley, whose departure opened the door for the arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011. But the younger Bradley, whose European stops include Germany's Borussia Moenchengladbach and a three-game loan to England's Aston Villa in 2011, says there was no problem in putting the needs of the team ahead of any personal animosity.

    "It's all about representing the United States," he said. Klinsmann ditched his long-used 4-2-3-1 alignment for a more conventional 4-4-2 setup that allowed Bradley greater flexibility in dictating the pace of a game and more decision-making opportunities at the forward tip of a midfield group.

    "It means that I'm able to have a little more freedom, have the ability to be a little more two-way and be more up-and-down," Bradley said. "It's certainly something I enjoy."

    It means that I'm able to have a little more freedom. It's certainly something I enjoy.

    Klinsmann, leading the Americans at a World Cup for the first time in Brazil, enjoyed it too.

    "Michael has tremendous strength, finding ways, getting in the box and joining the attack. So purposely we moved him," Klinsmann said. "The hope was that he gets into the box. The hope was that he is actually also dangerous to score."

    As more of a playmaker, Bradley can make dangerous runs and showcase his passing skills to ease the pressure upon American forwards such as Jozy Altidore of English Premier League side Sunderland.

    "Often we had situations where we didn't give enough support to our forwards. When you especially look at Jozy, often we had kind of him disconnected," Klinsmann said. "But if we have two guys to play into up front and Michael joins, it is going to be more difficult for opponents to read us."

    That figures to be a plus going against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the first round while enduring the longest travel schedule of any team during the group stage in Brazil. "One of our strengths is we have the ability to play it a lot of different ways," Bradley said. "It gives me more freedom to be mobile, to get forward."

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    Bradley: We play for the big games

    No matter the situation Michael Bradley is placed in, the USA midfielder always appears to be composed on the ball and seemingly capable of besting any challenge thrown his way. These characteristics have helped mold Bradley into one of the Americans' most recognisable talents on the world stage, and national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is expected to rely on him to pull the strings for the Stars and Stripes at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

    FIFA.com spoke exclusively with Bradley shortly after making his debut for Toronto FC, whom he helped beat Seattle Sounders 2-1 to start the Major League Soccer season in style. While Bradley was focused with the task at hand with his new club, it was clear he had his sights set on Brazil 2014 as well.

    “I feel good and excited about this stretch coming up,” he said when asked about the build-up ahead of Brazil 2014. “I’m working every day in training looking to improve, being sharp and getting fit.”

    Bradley moved to Toronto in January in what many considered a surprise transfer from Italian Serie A club Roma, especially when Klinsmann has expressed his desire for as many of his players to feature in the world’s traditionally competitive leagues in order to prime themselves for the challenges that await at the World Cup. Having last played in MLS for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars (now New York Red Bulls) in 2005, Bradley said he was happy to be plying his trade back in the league where he broke into the professional ranks as a 16-year old, under the tutelage of father and coach Bob, the former USA and Egypt coach, who is now in charge of Stabaek in Norway.

    “It’s a different league,” Bradley explained with a quiet confidence, not too dissimilar from the tone and demeanor his father is well known for exhibiting. “From the stadiums, the owners, the teams, the atmosphere… everything, I think it’s an exciting time to be back in North America.

    “I had a little break, in the sense that there have been no competitive games during pre-season, but now at this point we’re playing every week with a few midweek games sprinkled in just like it would be in Europe leading up to the World Cup, so it couldn’t be better.”

    Familiar foes
    Bradley’s return to MLS has meant the former Borussia Moenchengladbach man has been able to square off against fellow USA team-mates such as Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, Columbus Crew’s Michael Parkhurst and the Sounders’ Clint Dempsey this season. He said: “Clint and I have a great relationship. He is a competitor and I am a competitor. I have a lot of respect for him."

    Those relationships are being strengthened further now that Klinsmann has called in his provisional 30-man World Cup squad to a training camp at Stanford University in California to prepare for what promises to be a difficult journey through Group G, which also includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany. And like many others, Bradley expects A Seleção to be the team to beat at the world finals.

    “I think anyone betting against Brazil - in their home country no less - could be in trouble,” he said. “I think they have a good team, and the enthusiasm that they’ll have playing at home is going to be something that’s going to be difficult to deal with.”

    Bradley also acknowledged his passion to play when the stakes are highest. “It’s exciting, right?” Bradley said on the eve of his return to MLS, cracking a rare smile. “That’s why we all play. To play in big games, to play with pressure, to play when the spotlight is on brightest - that’s what makes it fun.”

    Those sentiments will certainly ring even louder as Bradley and the rest of Klinsmann's charges enter the final stages of preparation for Brazil 2014, with the Stars and Stripes eagerly awaiting Ghana in their opening match on 16 June in Natal.

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    Klinsmann: Howard among top five keepers in world

    USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is still sizing up much of his FIFA World Cup™ talent, but he has no doubts about goalkeeper Tim Howard.

    Klinsmann, overseeing a pre-World Cup training camp including 30 players at Stanford University in Palo Alto, said the veteran 'keeper, who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, is among the top five in the world.

    "He, I think, was in the top three of the Premier League this year, and I look at him as the top five in the world," Klinsmann said in remarks posted on MLSSoccer.com.

    Klinsmann said Howard was at a point in his career where he could stamp his mark on a World Cup.

    "I think there is something special waiting for Tim (in Brazil), that he hopefully makes that his special moment," Klinsmann said.

    In April the 35-year-old Howard inked a contract extension with Everton that will keep him at the Premier League club until 2018.

    Howard will be playing in his third World Cup. He served as back-up to Kasey Keller at the 2006 World Cup and was the starting 'keeper in 2010 in South Africa. The United States are drawn in Group G along with Ghana, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2010 edition, UEFA EURO 2012 semi-finalists Portugal and one of the favourites for the trophy, Germany. They will kick off their campaign on 16 June against Ghana.

    Prior to departing for Brazil, the team will play three warm-up friendlies, taking on Azerbaijan on 27 May at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Turkey on 1 June in Harrison, New Jersey, and Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida, on 7 June.

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    Donovan left off Klinsmann's USA squad

    Former captain Landon Donovan has been left out of USA's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The 32-year-old, the States' all-time leading scorer, had been hoping to play in his fourth World Cup but did not make the cut as Jurgen Klinsmann named his final 23-man squad for Brazil on Thursday.

    Although Klinsmann had indicated that the former Everton loanee faced a fight for his place, the final decision comes as something as a surprise with Jozy Altidore, who had a poor season with Sunderland, preferred to the Los Angeles Galaxy stalwart. Donovan, who has 57 goals for the United States in 156 appearances, has now been placed on a standby list alongside the six other players cut from the initial 30-strong group.

    "It's an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff, and these 23 players that you've chosen can focus now purely on Brazil," Klinsmann said. "We can go into more specific things about technical approaches, and about the opponents.

    "For the players, it's very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are on the list going to Brazil and taking it from there. After almost ten days of work right now, we thought the point has come to make the decision."

    Defenders Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst, midfielders Joe Corona and Maurice Edu, and forward Terrence Boyd were the other players cut.

    USA Squad

    Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
    Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nurnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
    Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
    Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.

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    Klinsmann defends Donovan World Cup snub

    USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann defended his decision to keep all-time American top scorer Landon Donovan out of his FIFA World Cup™ squad, saying the 32-year-old striker simply was not good enough.

    "The other strikers we see that inch ahead of him," Klinsmann said. "We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. That's why we made that decision."

    Former German star international and coach Klinsmann noted how Donovan's game has evolved as he has grown older with fewer one-on-one attacks and charges into the penalty area. He reflected how players gain experience as they get older but "maybe physically they lose a little bit of an edge".

    "He has done an amazing job the last ten days he was here," Klinsmann said. "He has done everything right. It has been not easy. These are very close decisions. It's not a decision against a player, in this case Landon. It's a decision for another player. We coaches had the feeling over the last few days. We had an inkling a little bit. We sensed it was the right time now."

    Klinsmann, whose USA team opens in Brazil against Ghana on 16 June, cut his squad from 30 in training camp to the final 23-man lineup due to FIFA next month, saying he and his staff felt the timing was right and the selections were clear.

    "It's a difficult situation for all of the players coming into a camp. It hangs like a cloud over the group for eight, nine, ten days. If you wait it gets even heavier," he said. "It's a huge boost for everybody in the 23. We can start preparing for the details going into the match with Ghana."

    Klinsmann said that if a forward is hurt before the roster is locked into place, he would call on Donovan, who has 57 international goals and sought a fourth World Cup appearance.

    "If it's a striker, the first one that I call will be Landon Donovan," Klinsmann said.

    "It's certainly one that catches everybody by surprise," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "To see him hurting and upset that now he's not going to have another chance to go to the World Cup is certainly hard."

    Added USA goalkeeper Tim Howard: "The senior players certainly love him and appreciate him. It's hard when you get such tough news."

    Klinsmann said he supports players' feelings on team-mates but "when it comes down to player selection that's down to the coaches. I'm not looking to the players. In the end, we're the only one to look after every one of them. I don't think all the players have the ability to see all their team-mates. Our picture is therefore a different one."

    Donovan, who has 114 caps, made his only reaction on Facebook, saying, "I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed."

    But Klinsmann said Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, took the snub well.

    "He took it highly professionally," Klinsmann said. "Amazing composure. Obviously big disappointment. That's expected. He said he doesn't kind of understand it. He thinks he should be in the 23.

    "I tried to lay out a couple reasons. They are technical. I'm not going into them. I told him I hope he stands by us and if we call him that he will be ready to come back to us. He expressed his disappointment in a professional way and I admire that a lot."

    Asked if snubbing Donovan put more pressure on the team to succeed in Brazil, Klinsmann left that for others to judge.

    "I have to do what I think is the right way," Klinsmann said. "I'm very strongly convinced this is the right way. We'll find out the next seven weeks if it was."

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    Wondolowski: USA’s unknown dream weaver

    “You get older and older and you start to wonder if your chance will ever come,” USA goal-poacher Chris Wondolowski told FIFA.com abouthis late-in-life climb into the international arena. “I was a late bloomer and there were times when I thought my opportunity had passed.”

    While his name does not roll off the tongue, it is one of the 23 that coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s has said will be in his USA squad for Brazil 2014. For the likeable and unlikely Wondo, it has been a long, hard road to his first FIFA World Cup™.

    His big break came last year at the age of 30, old for a striker to start an international charge. The veteran San Jose Earthquakes forward had only a handful of appearances as a substitute before Klinsmann picked him for his experimental CONCACAF Gold Cup squad. And like any opportunistic front-man, Wondo took his chance by the scruff of the neck and wrestled it to the ground. He scored a hat-trick against Belize with his name spelled wrong on his shirt, such was Wondolowski's status in the American camp.

    “I thought it was hilarious,” the striker said of the kit-man’s error – an extra W in the middle of an already unwieldy surname. And by the time he was crowned top-scorer in the competition, helping the US to their fifth regional title, his name was on everyone’s lips. The free-scoring Wondo was all American fans could talk about.

    Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength. “I’ve grown as a player since the Gold Cup,” said Wondolowski, twice MLS’s top-scorer with 80 goals since 2009. “I’ve had to step up my game and push myself,” added the man who came up through the second tier of the American university system and has never played outside of the United States.

    Klinsmann continued to call him up. Wondo scored almost every time he was put on the field and the German boss was left with no real choice but to include him on the list for Brazil. It is not just the player’s goals that impress Klinsmann, but his attitude too. “In every training session he’s the first on the field and he’s ready to go, and he wants to prove it,” said the coach and former Germany ace, who sparked controversy by omitting Landon Donovan, a player Wondo has referred to as a “soccer genius.”

    Wondolowski is an uncomplicated player. His job is to score goals and that’s exactly what he does best. “I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest, and I’m not the most technical player,” he admits. “As a striker, I have to be able to score. Ultimately, that’s how I’ll be judged.”

    Not bothered about the order
    Since the Gold Cup, Wondo has scored nine times in eleven games for his country. It is a return any striker would be envious of. But he refuses to be drawn into a debate about where he stands in the pecking order of US attackers. He will likely be used as a substitute behind Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore in Brazil, where USA will take on Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

    “I can’t control the line-up, so I don’t think much about it,” he said, engaging and thoughtful. “I just work to make myself better. That’s my mentality: Work every day and take every chance you get."

    Maybe it is his hard work, or maybe it is the special sense that truly natural scorers have, but Wondo is more than the sum of his parts, and his is a story to inspire even the hard-hearted. He is eager to learn from the rare chances that go begging, too.

    “Being a striker can be a total frustration,” he said, talking about those times when the goal seems to shrink and the keepers grow to the size of elephants. “It’s about inches,” concluded the man who has come many hard miles to achieve a big dream. “Scoring goals is about angles and the tiniest invisible spaces.”

    Now 31, Wondolowski is chasing a long-held and nearly discarded dream: to represent his country at the World Cup. His first taste of the tournament came when he was an 11-year-old boy in northern California, and it remains vivid in his memory. “Me and my friends went to watch Brazil practice,” he said, the smile that comes with fond and distant memories audible in his voice. “We watched through a hole in the fence and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I remember Romario’s goal against Sweden, the Final, the penalties,” he said and paused. “I remember thinking: I want this.”

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    Klinsmann’s USA aiming to rub shoulders with world’s best

    It is almost exactly ten years since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach of the German national team, having been handed a brief to shape the country’s footballing future. The former striker instilled an attack-minded philosophy into the side and guided them to third place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil.

    His right-hand man at that tournament was none other than Joachim Low, who has since taken the helm and steered Germany back among the world’s elite with his brand of creative and expansive football. Klinsmann has been in charge of USA’s national side since July 2011 and is aiming to gradually emulate his compatriots’ achievements, starting by making waves at this month's eagerly-anticipated World Cup in Brazil.

    In one of the more intriguing subplots thrown up by the group stage draw, the 49-year-old will face his former protege on 26 June in Group G in Recife. Klinsmann chatted to FIFA.com about his objectives with USA, excitement ahead of the tournament and the emotions the fixture with Germany will awaken in him.

    FIFA.com: In the group stage, USA will face Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Where would you rank your team among those four?
    Jurgen Klinsmann:
    From our point of view it’s certainly a very tough group. Ghana are something of a bogey team because we’ve lost twice against them at the last two World Cups. Going up against Germany and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will be incredibly difficult, but we’ve been improving step by step and want to start rubbing shoulders with very best teams in the world. There’s nothing better than playing against those kinds of teams. We believe we can make it into the next round.

    How special is it that the World Cup is being hosted in Brazil?
    It couldn’t get any better for the players or for anyone else involved for that matter, including the coaching staff and the fans. It doesn’t get any bigger than playing a World Cup in a country that has won the title five times, with the Final to be held at the Maracana. It’s such a football-crazy nation and the people there live for the game around the clock. It’s fantastic.

    What were your thoughts when USA were drawn against Germany?
    I had an inkling it might happen but you still think ‘come on, did it have to be like that?’ You just have to take it in your stride though. We’ll give everything to give Germany a good game. We’re aiming to reach the next round, so if we need one point or three to achieve that then we’ll try to do it.

    You worked closely with Joachim Low for a long time. Surely you must know all of each other’s tricks?
    Our friendship is based on respect. He’s done outstanding work in the last eight years and it’s great to see the development of the German team that is being supplied by a youth system that has produced so many young players. You only hope that a title will come along at some point, but they’re ready to win one. Of course it’ll be difficult to win the World Cup in Brazil because no European team has ever managed to do so in South America, but that’s the challenge Germany have set themselves given the superb crop of players they have. Jogi’s doing a great job and I couldn’t be happier for him, but I hope we’ll be able to cause them some problems when we meet.

    To what extent is it still your team?
    I’m happy that I was able to be part of building it up to what it is today. The two years leading up to the 2006 World Cup were very intense, as the tournament was being held in our own country and that put everything in a different light. Together with the whole backroom staff and the players, that sense of being pioneers was a lot of fun. But since then it has all been down to Jogi, Oliver Bierhoff and the players. We do get a little bit envious of the amount of young players being brought through each year in the German youth system, but that’s also why expectations are higher for them. Germany’s aim is to win the World Cup, whereas USA’s objective is to reach the knockout rounds.

    Will you have divided loyalties in the fixture against Germany?
    Of course I’ll look over to the German bench because I helped to shape the side into what it is, but as soon as the game kicks off I’ll only be rooting for my team. We want to compete well and to match them toe to toe. We’ve been closing the gap on the top teams and have produced decent results against some big names in the last two and a half years. We want to build on that at the World Cup. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who you play against, you need to be on your game when it matters.

    And what about your family?
    They’ll certainly be leaning more towards America. My wife is American and my children grew up in the USA so there’s more of a ‘Stars and Stripes’ pull there.

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    Altidore finds his range

    Jozy Altidore found some goalscoring form as USA beat Nigeria 2-1 last night in their final FIFA World Cup warm-up game on US soil before heading to Brazil.

    Sunderland’s much-maligned striker, who was without a goal in 2014, scored in each half as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side made it a hat-trick of wins after victories over Azerbaijan and Turkey. It was a fitting final dress rehearsal for the American squad and a confidence-boosting game for Altidore, who seems to have rediscovered his form at last. Except for a stumble late in the first half when they gave up a couple of scoring chances, the USA put together a complete performance against Nigeria, who are ranked 45th overall.

    Altidore opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, finishing from close range after a deft pass from Fabian Johnson. Altidore blasted a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner for his second goal in the 68th minute. Victor Moses scored the only goal for Nigeria with a penalty four minutes from time to make it 2-1.

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    Howard: We want to break out of the cage

    Tim Howard is the USA’s rock. An athletic and reliable goalkeeper who helped Everton to a fifth-place finish in the English Premier League this term, he recently marked his 100th cap and is preparing for his third FIFA World Cup™ finals. The most successful keeper in American history, Howard is just one of five in the Brazil-bound Stars and Stripes squad with any experience playing at this highest of levels. In the midst of a hectic final build-up to the showpiece, the 35-year-old veteran talked to FIFA.com about breaking a long-held record owned by a dear friend, how the Americans want to “break out of the cage” against Ghana and why, despite all his chatter, he prefers to lead by example.

    FIFA.com: You guys are all over television and in the big papers and magazines back in the States. Is it a distraction?
    Tim Howard: The buzz has been big, so we just tried to get every last bit of media, interviews and press days out of the way. We’re ready and eager to be down in Sao Paulo. Then we can start to really dial in. The goal is to put our heads down and break out of the cage in the first game against Ghana.
    You’ve done this all before. Is it difficult to make the transition from an intense season in England and focus on a World Cup?
    All of us push ourselves hard the whole year, and adding the World Cup into it is just a matter of extending that push. It’s a transition you need to make. If you finished your season well you can get out onto the training pitch with your country and keep that form going. You can use it as a springboard for the World Cup.

    And if you’re having a hard time and your form isn’t where you want it to be?
    If you didn’t finish your club season in high gear, the World Cup can be a get-out-jail-free card. There are new fields, new atmospheres. You’ve got new coaches and new teammates. New faces. It’s a new lease on life, and you can put the rest of the stuff behind you.

    Jurgen Klinsmann picked an inexperienced team. As one of only five players in the squad who’s played at a World Cup, do you take on an extra leadership role?

    Yeah, but I like to lead with actions and not words. I show up every day. I go about my business with a good attitude and intensity. When the young guys see this kind of thing, they see the way it’s done and they use it as an example.

    What are some other important elements of being a team leader?
    You can’t let guys off the hook in training. I push them if I see they’re not doing things the right way, or if they’re taking their foot off the gas. You need to make sure the tempo is high in training. A leader isn’t always the guy screaming loudest. It’s the guy doing things the right way when you look around. He’s the guy setting an example. The guy always pushing himself.

    I don’t doubt that you lead by example, but we can all see that you like to make yourself heard on the pitch…
    [Laughs] Yelling my head off never gets old. It’s a thing I do on the field, plain and simple. I like to be in control and communicate with the defenders in front of me.
    The likely American backline in Brazil will have little-to-no World Cup experience. How do you help in forming the defence into a unit?
    I try to stay on my defenders to make sure they know where to be. That’s where the talk comes in. They need to understand their roles and it’s never going to be my fault that they don’t know. I’m going to talk all the time. Communication is key at the back.

    You’ve had three send-off friendlies, a trio of wins over Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria. What do these results mean?
    The friendlies have had their good and bad. It’s always good to win. But there are lessons to learn and we need to focus on them. The reason we play these games is to see what’s going wrong, so we don’t ignore the problems. If we’re not there yet, we need to know it now so that when the Ghana game gets here we’ve got everything clicking.

    You’ve known your opponents in Brazil for over six months now. Ghana, Portugal and Germany – in that order. Is it different now that the Ghana game is days away?
    There’s a moment of initial buzz when you find out at the draw. But it wears off. Then you focus on yourself as a team and building. Now the attention turns back to Ghana. Ghana becomes the only thing we think about, the practical things: knowing their tactics, and their dangerous players. How they like to play. We’ve got a few days between now and the 16th (June) and the focus is only Ghana from now until then.

    People talk a lot about winning that first game, but Spain lost their opener in South Africa four years ago and they won the whole thing. How important is it really?
    It’s crucial for any team to get something from that first game. The importance can’t be overstated. You win that game and you get a feel-good factor working; get some momentum. We don’t want to play catch-up in the group stages. We don’t want to be biting our fingernails in that third game and hoping some other team can do us a favour.

    And the other teams [Portugal and Germany]. Do they enter into your thinking at the moment, or do they exist only on the horizon?
    There are tough teams waiting for us after Ghana, but we simply can’t think about them until they’re right in front of us. That’s the way.

    There were some surprise inclusions in the US team, like Julian Green and Timmy Chandler, and some well-publicised omissions like your long-time team-mate Landon Donovan. How long does it take before the selected guys begin the work of becoming one team?
    It’s a quicker process than you might think. We’re all professionals and we all know the way things go. Some guys make it and some don’t. All the guys in this camp know each other. It’s just something to deal with it. It’s part of being a pro.

    You recently earned your 54th win for the US, one better than previous best Kasey Keller. You were his No2 at Germany 2006. How did his mentorship help you become the keeper you are today?
    I backed him up for four or five years, and while he gave me good advice, it was the things he didn’t tell me that had the most impact. I observed him in the big moments, during the big games. I watched the way he handled himself in the hotel, with the media, with everyone. I am my own guy, but as a professional I modeled myself on him. In goalkeeping terms, he’s Superman.

    Was there one lesson you remember best?
    It was his calm. In those biggest moments, the man always stayed cool.

    Back to the here-and-now. Facing a group containing Portugal, Germany and Ghana – what many are calling the ‘group of death’ – what does success look like?
    Defining success isn’t easy. My brain works like this: anything less then winning the World Cup leaves room to doubt what you did. If you don’t win the whole thing, then it’s hard to say it was a success. But that’s a high bar, so we’ll start by trying to get out of the group.

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