IRENE, South Africa -- Tim Howard walked to the swimming pool, sporting a Band-Aid over his ribs.
The message to his American teammates was clear.
"That just gives us confidence as his partners to expect him out there," defender Jay DeMerit said Tuesday.
Howard needed an injection of a painkiller to play the second half of Saturday's World Cup-opening 1-1 tie against England following a collision in which Emile Heskey's boot landed in the goalkeeper's midsection.
For the first two days after the match, it wasn't clear whether he had broken ribs. But the U.S. Soccer Federation said late Monday that Howard is expected to be available against Slovenia on Friday.
"Everybody was, 'You playing next game? Are you playing next game?' " backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. "I'm like, Tim's OK.' "
Howard appeared to be moving freely during the part of training that was open to reporters Tuesday. He was bundled up in a navy ski cap, sweat pants, a windbreaker and goalkeepers' gloves. Players joked earlier about the Band-Aid.
"I think he's got some stud marks that he's probably trying to cover up," DeMerit said.
Howard had six saves against the English, a big reason the U.S. escaped with a critical point in its quest to reach the second round for the first time since 2002. Although he said after the game he wasn't sure whether he would need tests, his Band-Aid shtick showed other American players his appearance against Slovenia was assured.
"We just started laughing. because, you know, obviously, there was a lot made about his horrific injury," DeMerit said. "Obviously, there's a lot internal things that go on when you get hit in that area. It was just quite funny to come out with a little 'boo-boo' on his ribs."
Slovenia opened Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Algeria. The U.S., usually a World Cup underdog, likely will be a favorite in this matchup.
"It will be interesting to see how this game shapes up because with a win, Slovenia are qualified, so it's hard to know whether they're going to go all out and try to win or if they're going to be happy trying to get a point. We'll have to assess that," Landon Donovan said. "In all likelihood, if we lose we're out of the tournament. That's the reality of the situation. As much as people put in the England game, this becomes a lot more important in that way."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press