WASHINGTON (AP) — With their roles reversed, No. 1 goalkeeper Brad Guzan of the United States insists "nothing changes" in his relationship with World Cup standout Tim Howard.
Guzan and Howard are part of the U.S. team that will play friendlies against Peru on Friday and Brazil next week, the final tuneups before a big match in October against Mexico.
The 36-year-old Howard returns to his first national team duty since taking a one-year hiatus following an exceptional individual performance at the 2014 World Cup.
Guzan moved into the starting role in Howard's absence. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann indicated in August that Guzan has earned the right to keep that spot. The 30-year-old Guzan says there won't be tension.
"(Tim) and I get on really well, in terms of on the field and off the field," said Guzan, who like Howard plays in the English Premier League. "You always have someone pushing you or you're pushing someone else. And being in Europe, where it's obviously a little bit more cut-throat than here in the U.S., you develop a thick skin. "
Howard helped the U.S. advance beyond the group stage of last summer's World Cup and made a tournament-record 16 saves in a round-of-16 loss to Belgium.
Guzan's stint as No. 1 comes during an unceremonious CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal loss to Jamaica in July. Mexico won the tournament, setting up a meeting with U.S. on Oct. 10 to determine who goes to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
"We know it obviously wasn't good enough from a collective standpoint," Guzan said of the Gold Cup. "That's now behind us. We need to make sure we look forward."
Howard is among several standouts from the World Cup returning from an extended layoff.
Defender Matt Besler rejoins the crowded center back contingent in his first duty since Klinsmann criticized his fitness levels after winter friendlies against Chile and Panama.
"I think everybody's moved on from that," Besler said. "We've had conversations. They're private conversations."
Midfielder Jermaine Jones has had two sports-hernia surgeries this year and has only played 107 minutes in two matches with the New England Revolution since the second.
"It's getting better," said Jones, who will use the friendlies to help get in shape. "Trying to get my fitness back 100%."