Howard started in his second straight World Cup two years ago and had 16 saves in the 2-1, extra-time loss to Belgium in the round of 16. He took a one-year sabbatical from the national team, then returned last fall and alternated with Brad Guzan. But Guzan, who started in last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, also earned the job for this year's Copa America.
Guzan has started in nine straight games, but U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Friday that Howard will be in goal against Colombia "because he has been outstanding to help the team go all the way through in this tournament, helping Brad Guzan wherever he could, keeping the spirit very positive and pushing from behind."
"He's totally on board the fact to give Tim this game," the coach said.
Speaking to the media for the first time since Klinsmann picked Guzan over him in May, Howard was asked if it had been a long wait to get this chance.
"Uh, yeah," he said.
"It's not had to get up for," Howard said. "It's the third-place game in Copa America. No one thought we'd be here, so it's exciting."
Since Joel Robles supplanted him as Everton's starter in late January, Howard has appeared in just three games - a 2-0 loss at Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier on March 25, and in the Toffees' last two home games, raising his Everton appearances to 414. He joins Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids next month.
The 31st-ranked United States lost to No. 3 Colombia 2-0 in the Copa opener.
"I think we played a very good game," Klinsmann said, "but we conceded our first goal on a corner kick, where we lost a marker, and then a penalty kick that was 'discussable,' but the end result, bottom line is 2-nil."
Klinsmann believes the U.S. squad gave "too much respect" to Argentina, which went ahead in the third minute and doubled the lead when Lionel Messi scored on a free kick.
"Then you don't go kind of into their faces and you don't step on their toes," he said, "and all these things that you need to do in order to have some sort of success against very physical South American teams."
U.S. captain Michael Bradley said his team never gave itself a chance. Argentina outshot the U.S. 10-0.
"Certainly there's disappointment that you get to a semifinal and you never really give your chance to settle in and really let the game play out," Bradley said. "That part is disappointing, but I think when you look back in large part it's been a very positive few weeks. I think every guy to a man should feel proud of what went into it. We'll see if we can finish that off on a positive note."
Klinsmann said the third-place match is a chance to show the team's improvement since that 2-0 loss.
"This is a big opportunity for our team to correct that result and show also the growth in the tournament of our team," he said. "It's an opportunity also to finish up on a very high note. Sometimes it's better to win the third-place game than lose the final."