Americans Abroad

Guzan earns praise for play as starter

Guzan (Getty Images)

When Aston Villa starting goalkeeper Shay Given went down with an injury in an early December match against Manchester United, Alex McLeish was forced to turn to American backup Brad Guzan, who has been patiently waiting for a starting role in the Premier League ever since joining Villa from Chivas USA in 2008.

Guzan has proved to be a stable option in goal for the Villans, who have a hold on a mid-table position while battling other injury woes along with a tough stretch in the schedule.

Villa has gone 1-2-1 with Guzan as a starter, with the losses coming to Liverpool and Arsenal and the most recent result being a 0-0 draw at eighth-place Stoke City. Guzan has appeared confident, in command and aggressive, proving to be anything but hesitant when coming off his line for free kicks and crosses through the area. His play has earned praise from McLeish, who told the club's official website:

"At training every day he's never complained, he's always been alive and alert throughout his backing up to Shay. I've been impressed by him. He did very well at Stoke. He came and took a couple of crucial long throws and corners. A keeper's confidence soars after that.

"I watch him closely in training, and he turns up for his work every day and puts in a shift. He doesn't just go through the motions, he works from start to finish. I always thought he could handle it."

Guzan's next challenge is perhaps his toughest one yet: Saturday at Stamford Bridge, when Villa faces Chelsea. Assuming Given does not suffer any setbacks to his hamstring over the next week, Guzan will likely face Swansea City on Jan. 2 and then Bristol City in an FA Cup match on Jan. 7 before relinquishing starting duties.

His starting cameo has essentially acted as a tryout on the main stage for the 27-year-old Guzan, who earned starting time on loan at Hull City in the League Championship last season and would benefit from regular playing time to get back on the U.S. national team radar. Although Guzan's current contract expires at the end of the season, Villa has been vocal about its wish to lock him up to a new deal, although for Guzan that would mean reverting back to a mostly backup role.

"I want him to stay here and I told him that," McLeish said. "We realize his ambitions, and at 27 he may want to play some regular football. This will have given him a huge appetite for it. But we are very pleased with him."


How do you rate Guzan's time as a starter for Villa thus far? Do you hope to see him go on loan when Given comes back or go elsewhere in the summer? Or do you see Villa as a good place for his long-term prospects?

Share your thoughts below.

  • adub

    Guzan has been brilliant in goal for the past 2 years…. hope he gets a starting job somewhere in the EPL after his contract expires…. hes now got the experience and confidence to be a #1 keeper at that level… its great hes finally getting a chance to shine. I could see him staying at Villa after Shay Given retires also.


  • Ski Fast!

    The kid needs to go where he will play. He’s 27 and has studied enough under very good coaching and mentors. If he can land a starting role somewhere in the EPL or elsewhere in Europe, I think it’s time to really put himself on the market with his contract being up.


  • wilyboy

    Guzan shouldn’t sign it unless he objectively thinks Villa wants him to start. If they are expressing otherwise, why would he stay. He’s the starter for Villa for now, use it to show case your ability to both other clubs and Villa.


  • Luke

    “Guzan has been brilliant in goal for the past 2 years….” For whom? He’s barely played at Villa except some cup games and as a fill in when the #1 is injured and he had a short loan spell at Hull last year. He’s barely played for the Nats. He needs to move on to another club and get consistent playing time. Maybe a Championship team.


  • Greg G

    David Pleat, the commentator at last weekend’s game, was giving high praise for Guzan throughout the game. I believe he used terms like “world class” or “goalkeeping at the highest level” or something like that. He seems to be making a good impression on others as well. Good for him.


  • MattfromMemphis

    Given signed a 5 year contract. Guzan will be leaving. I’m a Villa fan. I’ve watched all the games. He’s a beast, but Shay Given is too. I have little doubt that Guzan will get picked up in the transfer window, or when his contract is up. He’d be stupid to sign with Villa unless it was 1-2 year term serving a backup role. He’s very young in his career as a keeper, but it all depends on who is making bids.

    That game against Stoke would’ve ended in zero points if Guzan didn’t bolt off his line to stop Kenwyne Jones. He’s looked great in all outings, and the goals against were (just like with Given) a result of our back line and just altogether poor play. Plus McLeish sucks.


  • jbrader

    I would be very surprised. Given is better, has vast experience. BG is good, but Given will have to retire for Guzan to take over.


  • john

    Guzan has looked good every time he has steeped on the field from what i can recall. Personally i think he will be a little better than Howard someday as he is a little less mistake prone.


  • GW

    Howard has played a lot more so the chances of him committing the occasional howler are much greater.

    Nevertheless, you are right. Guzan seems less prone to losing concentration than Howard does.

    For the good of he USMNT,hopefully Guzan can get regular PT somewhere so that he can challenge Howard. Otherwise Timmy loses concentration when he is the unquestioned starter over a long period. Guzan is his only real USMNT competition in the near term.

    Given is better but he is also quite a bit older, injury prone and makes a lot more money. Guzan needs to show well enough so that Villa will have to decide if the difference between him and Given is worth Given’s far greater salary.


  • Award

    He needs to move on. I don’t care if it’s in the EPL, Championship, Bundesliga, La Liga, Portuegese league, Seria A or the Eredivisie. Guzan needs to be playing first team soccer. Hell I wouldn’t mind seeing him come back to MLS if it was to get him first team soccer. Guzan has all of the abilities Howard does; except Howard has way more experience. Guzan has the potential to be the #1 Keeper for the USMNT. Guzan is way less mistake prone than Howard. Howard is World Class and Guzan could be even better than Howard.


  • jmadsen

    Agree. It would be a shame for someone that good to essentially spend his whole career as a backup.


  • Jamie Z.

    Man City? I mean, I agree Guzan has lots of potential, but there’s no way he’s going to unseat Joe Hart, the keeper who rendered Villa’s current No.1 surplus to requirements at City.


  • Excellency

    Guzan played very well in the match I saw recently. His decisions were very good.

    I have to assume that it is only his physical athleticism/stature that holds him back from a starting spot at this time. However, I’d much rather have a reliable keeper than an athletic one.

    He’d make a great back up to Timmy on the national squad. He knows what to do.


  • GW

    “I have to assume that it is only his physical athleticism/stature that holds him back from a starting spot at this time. However, I’d much rather have a reliable keeper than an athletic one. ”

    I’m curious about what you mean. Guzan is 6’4″.


  • Alex

    Hmmm… I think Tim Howard is enough of a model pro to not get complacent about his spot… He knows he has to work to keep it…


  • John

    He might get “Friedeled” Great keeper but stuck behind an even greater keeper on the USMNT. Best for him to make the most of his club career while he can.


  • Hood Rich

    He isn’t athletic like Timmy making those acrobatic saves or has cat like reflexes but like most have already said, he is less prone to errors than Timmy.

    Time to move on; he’s no rookie and has proven he can be a starter at this level and MLS. Some who have just heard of him probably don’t know he already was one of the best gk in MLS few yrs ago.

    Even a guy like Hahnemann was able to stick around a few yrs in EPL and at best he was above avg MLS gk; Guzan is better.


  • beachbum

    have always thought Brad was a beast, a huge physical presence and quick as a cat. Playing regularly, he’s the US #2 for sure, at least


  • GW

    I get the athletic part. It’s the stature business.

    Athleticism in a keeper isn’t always the best thing. Goal keeping is all about making good decisions. In theory, if you play every situation properly, you should never have to make those “athletic” saves.

    For that reason great goalkeepers can be very boring to watch.


  • GW

    Martin O Neill went for him in the January transfer window and was narrowly denied then Guzan played in some more USMNT games in the interim and Villa got him the next time around.

    The important thing about that is guess who is the new manager of Sunderland? That’s right the same guy who gave Kasey Keller his start.


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