By DAN KARELL
Five games into the Premier League season, Aston Villa are sitting safe in the middle of the table, with the play of goalkeeper Brad Guzan leading the way.
The U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper was last season’s Aston Villa Player of the Year as they staved off relegation, and last Saturday at Norwich City, Guzan saved a penalty early and made another terrific save late to ensure a 1-0 win for Villa and his first clean sheet in 27 league games.
With that performance and his season opening win at Arsenal, and it’s safe to say that despite close three losses in a row, Guzan is already at top form early in the season.
“It was a good result for us,” Guzan told USSoccer.com. Carrow Road is not an easy place to go and play. Not many teams go there and get points, especially three. For us it was a huge result, especially coming of the lackluster performance against Newcastle. It was important that we turned things around and put together a good showing.”
This Saturday, the challenge becomes much more difficult for manager Paul Lambert’s young side, with an average age 24, as Villa welcome Manchester City to Villa Park. Man City last Sunday routed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, showing their title aspirations and deep squad.
Dealing with Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander might be one test, but the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, and Alvaro Negredo will provide the 28-year-old Guzan with a different kind of challenge.
“We know that they are a really good team with some world class players,” Guzan said. “Our performances against the big teams have been really good, and that should give us confidence going into that game. Hopefully we go out and not hold anything back. We have nothing to be afraid of.
“We want to go out and get a positive result. Being at Villa Park is a huge advantage for us. We want to get the supporters behind us and make it a special day for everyone.”
Looking at the USMNT picture, Guzan continues to be the understudy to the steady and strong Tim Howard in goal when the latter is fit, but the Chicago, Illinois native proved last March that he can step in and produce results when needed, like we saw in the “Snow Game” against Costa Rica and in the crucial tie at Mexico.
Like head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Guzan seems to understand that there’s just not a lot of time for the National Team to spend time together, with just five more FIFA dates left on the international calendar before the World Cup. At the same time, even though the team is qualified, Guzan wants to finish top of the Hexagonal.
“Every time we come together it’s important first and foremost to get results,” Guzan said. “We want to win games and show the world, and especially our region, what the U.S. is all about. We have to use these times to continue to grow as a team.”
Guzan keys on the need to make sure everyone is gelled and comfortable with each other in the team, and that in the next USMNT games, it’s important for everyone to use the time at hand to the fullest.
“One of the key factors is making sure we are continuing to come together on and off the pitch,” Guzan said. “There are a lot of experienced guys, and at the same time the manager continues to introduce new faces here or there. We have to make sure guys feel comfortable in the group.
“It’s all the little things that make a big difference leading up to the World Cup. We have to use our time together in a smart way.”
What do you think of these comments? What do you think of Guzan’s start of the season? Do you see the team gelling together like we’ve seen in the past?
Share your thoughts below.