NBC Sports held a conference call with U.S. national team and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard on Thursday, in order to build some hype ahead of the upcoming Premier League season.
Not surprisingly, most of the questions weren't about the Premier League. They were about his U.S. national team colleagues. It's been a busy year for the Yanks, with Clint Dempsey's move to the Seattle Sounders as the latest big talking point.
The Dempsey news is about the Premier League, to be fair, since he had been playing at Tottenham Hotspur. I wonder how he would have fared with Jason Sudekis coaching him.
Still, Howard was happy to dish on a range of topics. Here's a transcript of some of his best quotes.
On Clint Dempsey's move to Seattle and MLS:
I've known Clint a long time. I've not gotten a chance to speak to him since the move. I know Clint and I know his family. If this is a decision that he's happy with, then I'm excited for him. I think it's great for MLS and Seattle, and apparently it's great for him, or he wouldn't have done it.
I'm a firm believer that you get one career and one career only, and he has to do what's best for Clint and his family. I'm looking forward to catching up with him next week and hearing all about it.*
* - The national team will convene in a few days for a friendly at Bosnia on Wednesday, August 14 (2:30 p.m., ESPN2/UniMás). Although the roster hasn't been announced yet, Howard's remark sounds like a hint that he and Dempsey will both be included. But that may not be true: Sports Ilustrated's Grant Wahl reported Thursday afternoon that Dempsey won't be called up.
On whether it's good for Dempsey's national team prospects that he is playing in MLS instead of a bigger league:
Every player is different. I think it is good to go abroad and test yourself, but I think if you're a guy – take Landon Donovan for example. He has spent most of his career in MLS, and he has found a way to keep his performance levels very high, so when he steps into the international game he is one of the better players. It's tough to argue with that.
Clint is a seasoned veteran. He knows what he needs and what it takes to perform at the highest level. There's no question Seattle and MLS can offer him that.
On his own potential to return to Major League Soccer in the future:
I've got three years left on my contract [with Everton] - that's what my future looks like. I'm American, so when my time in England Europe is done I'm going to live in America. If I'm fit and healthy when that time comes, I think anytihng's possible. Right now, I'm happy with the challenges at Everton, and that's pretty much as far as I can look forward.
On Landon Donovan returning to the U.S. national team:
I think we're at our best when we have our best players available, and quite honestly, when you start to stack the chips up, Landon Donovan is one of our best players. That's not in question. How he fits in and where Jurgen Klinsmann sees him, that's not down to me. But I just saw him recently and I'd be excited to have him in our World Cup qualifying campaign.
If you're asking me if he's still a top player, yes, he's still a top player. Trust me, if he lines up on the other side to Clint Dempsey or another winger, teams are going to be fearful. They are not going to want to see him. It's certainly a big plus for us.
On Jozy Altidore moving to the Premier League to play for Sunderland:
Jozy's on great form, not only recently for the national team but last year and the seaon before in Holland [with AZ Alkmaar]. That's what strikers get paid to do: bang in goals and get on hot streaks. I think he'll do well [at Sunderland]. He's a big boy, he's got pace, he likes to get in front of the goal and finish. He's strong snough to hold up the ball and bring teammates into play.
Heading into the World Cup he's our money-maker, he's our guy we have to ride all the way.
On the World Cup qualifying game next month at Costa Rica, where the U.S. national team has never won:
It's been a heck of a place to go. But I think the two things that are really going to drive us on are that we are on the cusp of qualifying from a points standpoint, and also under Jurgen Klinsmann, we have gone to a few places in the last few years and gotten results wherw we have never gotten results before.
On the popularity of the English Premier League in the United States and NBC's deal to broadcast all of the games over the next three seasons:
From what I see and hear in my travels, the American sports fan is so hungry for soccer now. The coverage that NBC brings has been needed for a while, because everyone wants to watch the Premier League. Even other athletes in other sports are watching Premier League soccer because it's so exciting. There are so many big names, and the games are high tenmpo.
On the introduction of goal line technology in the Premier League:
I'm looking forward to it. From the explanation we got from the referees, it's such a simple tool that I don't know why we didn't use it before. When you look at how many examples of how goal line technology can be used - it's so difficult for the linesman and referee to make that call. Now they are going to have help. There may be a few calls that go against us, but we'll get [good] luck too.