Is Brad Guzan ready to step up? 

March, 9, 2013

News delivered after 5 p.m. on a Friday is never good.

For the U.S. national team, word that veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard will miss both of the Americans' World Cup qualifying matches this month because of two broken bones in his back -- a revelation made by Liverpool-based Times of London soccer scribe Tony Barrett about an hour before midnight in the U.K. -- is downright crushing.

Howard, after all, is the acting U.S. captain now that Carlos Bocanegra is being phased out by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. And with Landon Donovan and Steve Cherundolo also ruled out for the games against Costa Rica and at Mexico, he would have been the second most experienced player, behind Clint Dempsey, on the already depleted American roster.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.