Four years ago in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, goalie Tim Howard and the United States held a 1-0 lead at Guatemala … only to allow a goal in the 81st minute on a free kick by Marco Pappa.
The U.S. team had to settle for a 1-1 tie, the fifth time it has drawn in its previous six qualifiers at Guatemala.
At 10 p.m. Friday night, the teams will meet again in Guatemala, and another Howard-Pappa duel is entirely possible. Pappa, a midfielder, is a focal point of the Guatemala offense.
But Howard, who turned 37 earlier this month, has not been in great form lately, losing his starting job at Everton in the English Premier League. He could start on Friday, but USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann may opt for Brad Guzan.
Howard also made news Sunday when he signed with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. He will join Colorado once Everton’s season ends in July.
“Everything’s a factor,” Klinsmann, speaking from the Americans’ training camp at Barry University, said when asked about Howard’s two months of inactivity. “We follow every player, no matter if they are playing in Europe, Mexico or in the MLS.
“You want them all to do well. You want them all to make statements through their club performances.”
Howard, who was USA’s starting goalie at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, had a brilliant 13-year run in the Premier League, including a decade with Everton.
He posted more than 100 shutouts, won an FA Cup title and a goalkeeper of the year award.
But Howard, who was benched in favor of Everton’s Joel Robles, has not played a league game since Jan. 24.
Still, Klinsmann expressed confidence in Howard as well as Guzan.
“We have the highest respect for Tim and Brad,” Klinsmann said. “Having a player like Tim back in our group is huge because of his experience. Is it more ideal if he [were starting for Everton]? Absolutely.
“But he is  years old. He’s played I don’t know how many hundred games in the Premier League. He knows how to deal with [inactivity]. He is calm. He is a top professional.”
In the MLS, Howard will be the highest-paid goalie by a large margin. According to reports, he will make $2.5 million annually through the 2019 season.
Howard is the most-capped USA goalie with 106 appearances, and he set a World Cup record in 2014 when he made 15 saves in a loss to Belgium.
He said he was thrilled to sign with Colorado, even though the long-rumored deal took some time to complete.
“Anytime contracts are done, it takes awhile, and it gets a bit boring,” Howard said. “But I was excited to put pen to paper.”
Howard said fans or media members may look at his reduced role at Everton and draw conclusions.
They would be wrong in doing so, he said
“I don’t think it played much of a factor,” Howard said of his benching. “That seems the easy reason on the outside.
“But I had two years left at the club that I love, and I planned on playing those out … until this opportunity came up. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
“It gives me a chance to be in the shop window for the next World Cup. And the excitement of building something in Colorado. ... People don’t care to hear that, but that was the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, Klinsmann said he felt good about the chances of midfielder Fabian Johnson and forward Jozy Altidore being ready to play on Friday. Both are overcoming injuries.
“They are not 100 percent yet,” Klinsmann said. “Hopefully by Friday, they will be close to 100 percent.
“Jozy’s injury was not as serious as feared. … [With Fabian], we are confident he will play a role on Friday.”