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Improving Howard expected back in US net

Associated Press / June 15, 2010

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IRENE, South Africa — Relax, US fans. Tim Howard should be in goal Friday against Slovenia.

Howard is expected to play after the US team medical staff examined him yesterday and decided no further tests were needed on his bruised ribs. Howard is making “substantial improvement’’ following a collision with Emile Heskey in Saturday night’s 1-1 draw against England, US Soccer said in a statement.

It seemed unlikely Howard would miss the game against Group C leader Slovenia, considering he earned man of the match honors after Heskey slammed into him feet-first in the 29th minute. But there was some concern Sunday that Howard’s ribs might be broken, not just bruised, and US coach Bob Bradley said he would reevaluate his goalkeeper’s status.

“When you see the way Timmy handled himself after the collision last night, you’d certainly expect he’ll be on the field again,’’ Bradley said Sunday.

News that Howard will play is sure to give a boost to the Americans, who are tied with England for second place in Group C.

Howard has emerged as one of the world’s top goalkeepers at Everton, and he is the cornerstone of the US team. The Americans have won 31 of his 52 appearances, including last year’s upset of top-ranked Spain in the Confederations Cup.

Howard was so stellar at the Confederations Cup that he was awarded the Golden Glove as the event’s best keeper.

“In these tournaments, you need a good goalkeeper,’’ veteran US defender Steve Cherundolo said. “So we’re very, very happy Tim’s on our side.’’

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