Brad Guzan’s move to Atlanta United finally provided a bit of clarity. It is now certain that Guzan will move from the Middlesbrough bench to the field for a club that truly needs him. It’s also a certainty that Atlanta United has their goalkeeper, one that should be a centerpiece for quite some time.
However, it also confirmed a bit of uncertainty when it comes to the U.S. Men’s National Team, especially with a pair of World Cup qualifiers rapidly closing in.
As the U.S. marches on toward March qualifiers, the goalkeeping position is one of intrigue. As things stand, there’s no clear-cut starter for a variety of reasons, as Bruce Arena faces a tough choice ahead of the first meaningful matches of his second USMNT stint.
Guzan and Tim Howard have been anchors for years, and for good reason. The two were both Premier League mainstays for a number of seasons and were widely seen as reliable goalkeepers in one of the world’s top leagues. The U.S., in many ways, was fortunate to have a goalkeeping pool that many throughout the world would have been more than jealous of.
However, both enter March with lingering doubts. Set to join Atlanta in the summer, Guzan will spend the next several months continuing his role as Victor Valdes’ backup. Barring an injury or unfathomable shakeup, Guzan will all but certainly be glued to the bench for the next several months, depriving him of game action until after the Premier League season.
Howard, meanwhile, is battling to return from an adductor injury sustained in the last set of World Cup qualifiers. Following the November surgery, Howard is still about two months away from returning to the field. Best case scenario? He’s back just in time for qualifiers, but even then one would have to wonder how crisp he’d be and how confident he’ll be in his ability to move in goal.
With that in mind, it would be somewhat logical for Arena to begin to look to options other than Guzan and Howard, especially given the USMNT’s up-and-coming crop of goalkeepers. However, there are question marks a plenty with the next two options as well.
Fresh off his recent move to Club Brugge, Ethan Horvath appears to be moving up in European circles and remains a player pegged for a bright USMNT future. Two matches into his career with his new club, though, Horvath has remained on the bench in favor of Ludovic Butelle. Horvath is just 21, and the club is unlikely to rush him as long as the team keeps winning. Long-term, Horvath will likely be their starter, but they have the benefit of patience.
Then there’s Bill Hamid, a player that was supposed to use this January camp to vault his way into the starting conversation. Once again, injury struck, robbing Hamid of the chance to impress Arena from up close. He’s expected to be back for D.C. United’s season opener, but with just two caps to his name, with none of them recent, it’s unlikely he’d be an option in March.
Arena certainly has other options. David Bingham is in camp and has recently been a part of the USMNT picture. Luis Robles and Nick Rimando are MLS veterans, players who could no doubt step in.
Still, though, the buck stops at Howard and Guzan, and while neither are in an ideal situation, one will need to step up and lead when World Cup qualifying comes around.