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.
Is it too much to ask that someone who gets paid to write actually edits his story before hitting the post button? Spell check doesn’t fix everything…
“With that performance and his season opening win at Arsenal, and it’s safe to say that despite close three losses…’
What are “close three losses”? Do you mean “three close losses”?
especially coming of the lackluster performance
Wouldn’t that be “coming OFF” the performance?
…much more difficult for manager Paul Lambert’s young side, with an average age 24…”
Should be “average age OF 24”, unless you’re a caveman….
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When we manufacture field players like we do goalkeepers, we will be world beaters.
Guzan is a little bit better as a keeper.
But Howard has been there for a long time, appears to be something of a team leader(?) and most importantly has stepped up his play for the USMNT since Brad began turning up the heat.
I suspect JK keeps Timmy at #1 because I don’t think Timmy would react well to being benched, whereas Brad is used to being the backup and he will be ready at a moments notice to step in and play exceptionally well. I doubt Timmy could do that .
Put it this way:
If Timmy is #1, the US has two #1’s
If Brad is #1, the US has a #1 and a #2.
The Kahn, Lehmann competition for Germany was actually not this close. Lehmann was exceptional with Arsenal in the Champions League leading up the World Cup. Kahn was good but Lehmann was exceptional.
Kahn was “good”? Oliver Kahn was great,…in no uncertain terms. Trivia question,…who is the only GK to win win a Golden Ball as the best individual player in a World Cup? The answer may give you some insight.
Sure Ollie was awesome but you are talking about the Kahn before 2006.
By the time Lehmann beat him out for Germany’s 2006 World Cup team he was still a great keeper but Lehmann was better. Ollie was yesterday’s news. It happens.
What is amazing to me is how people quickly forget about Rimando. He is a great shot stopper and gives an added dynamic: when the ball goes back to his feet it isn’t just hoofed down the field with hopes that the US retain it. He was good enough to play in the field at the NCAA level periodically. He has foot skills. We are very fortunate to have a #3 as good as Rimando. If either Guzan or Howard went down or heaven forbid both, not much is lost with Rimando and something is gained.
I’m not sure why you think anyone has forgotten Rimando. He’s just nowhere near surpassing Howard or Guzan despite his often praised foot skills. Rimando is probably the best keeper for his height the US has ever seen (at least in the modern post 1990-era). Give that guy 3 extra inches and he might be the starter right now.
yes, rimando’s a great #3. who’s forgetting this?
As far as National Teams go we are very lucky to have 2 Keepers playing at the level Guzan and Howard play at. Both a class and instill confidence in the team that they’ll be there to cover for those in front of them. Whoever is the # 1 or # 2 between the two we will be in a good possition at GK in 2014. After 2014/15 its a little more concerning. S. Johnson, Hamid, Cropper, MacMath, etc…have a lot of ground to make up to fill in for Guzan/Howard.
Guzan will likely be the # 1 in 2018 cycle….but who will fill the other 2 GK’s is anyone’s guess.
I agree, but that is 5 years away and these guys you mentioned are between 19-23.
I think Guzan is definitely better at crosses, which has always been a weak point for Howard. Howard still may be a better shot stopper.
$ he makes a big move if everything keeps going his way
Tim should retire from the Nats after this WC to make way for Guzan. Like how Friedel retired from the Nats after WC 2002 to make way for Keller … and Keller after WC 2006 to make way for Tim.
Keller is actually a little older than Friedel. Friedel retired between 2002 and 2006 because he did not like the way that Arena wavered between Keller and himself (especially when he thought he was the better keeper and have a great performance during the 2002WC). He also got tired of the national team commitments and wanted to focus on his club career.
He retired at 33. Right about the age when goalies start to/hit their peak. I always look at Friedel in a lesser light because he up and quit on the team. I believe he was the only player of that generation who up and quit the team. As much as people rode Donovan, at least he only took a break.
i’m glad someone else feels that way about friedel; thought i might be the only one.
i’m still proud of him, and grateful for his (huge) contribution, but i just thought a little less of him than others because he chose to remove himself from consideration when we might have still used him.
that might be totally wrong-headed, but that’s the way i feel.
I actually respect him more. His club career kept advancing due to his retirement from the NT. Up until October 2012 he was starting for some of the biggest clubs in England. Keller had to head back to MLS for a starting gig
i know many people disagree, but i don’t consider it respectable to advance your club career at the (possible) expense of your national team.
Keepers are very different from field players. Once you settle on one many managers won’t rotate them.
Defenses like consistency in their last line of defense
Not all managers agree with that but Arena seems to.
Freidel retired from the USMNT in 2005. At the time Keller was in great form, strong and at least as good as Brad and arguably better. The World Cup was around the corner and Howard was at Man U. and soon to be sent to Everton.
If you think the US keeper position suffered one iota from Freidel’s absence I’d love to hear your rationale for that, particularly since Brad made a point of saying if the USMNT ever needed him in an emergency he would come back. I don’t see how having two #1 keepers and a third keeper like Tim Howard would have been any particular benefit to the USMNT.
Brad gave the USMNT to best World Cup tournament a keeper ever had and left the team extremely well off at his position. I had no issue with his retirement.
yeah, i guess just difference of opinion–i don’t think keller has ever been better than friedel, and i think that his ’emergency’ statement was classic CYA.
i don’t think he would’ve said that if he thought that the situation would ever appear. what would the coach be saying about the current or up-and-coming keepers, if he has to declare an ’emergency’ and call in a internationally-retired player?
‘I don’t see how having two #1 keepers and a third keeper like Tim Howard would have been any particular benefit to the USMNT.’
ok, but you’re not the coach. maybe arena (or bradley) would’ve seen the benefit.
The question of who was the better keeper, Keller or Freidel is debatable but certainly Arena, who could never settle on one, had trouble choosing between the two.
Freidel defined his retirement contingency statement by saying that “Emergency” meant injury to Kasey.
He qualified that further by saying if he came back it would be only to start, not to back up Howard.
I’m sure some would see that as arrogant.
I see it as confirmation of the fact that Freidel knew how good he was and is and that is exactly what I want from a keeper.
Freidel was one level above Timmy and, up until about a year ago I definitely would have taken Freidel over Howard for one game and still might.
Arena did not seem that concerned. It removed a selection headache from him that he did not really need. I doubt he was inclined to experiment with constantly rotating two very “confident “ and potentially volatile characters in Keller and Freidel in an effort to get better performance out of the position.
It would have been hard to imagine getting much better keeper play than he did out of Keller in 2006. The USMNT at that point had much more pressing issues.
And Bradley had the best of Howard.
At least something good has come out of Chivas USA
Don’t forget Sacha Kljestan! He might me a fringe player for the Nats right now, but he’s had a ton of success with Anderlecht — a Champions League team!
The Howard-Guzan competition definitely keeps both on their toes
what about Hamid and Sean Johnson? How are they coming along? Should we expect to see either of those 2 heading to Europe in a year or 2?
Hamid has had a pretty down year. His backline isn’t helping that, though. He had a few great performances to start the year, but honestly I don’t see him making the jump anytime soon.
Johnson is progressing nicely but I think he is still a couple years away from getting into a top league.
I say cap Yarborough!
Since both will have trouble getting USMNT senior games, work permits, at least for the UK, might be a problem.
Guzan and Howard had Euro passports. It’s not just Germans who take advantage of that.
If he’s so good, why did he get benched today?
My sarcasm detector is off the charts. It’s a cup match. Most clubs allow their 2nd string players to start.
I think clearly sarcasm since anyone who actually followed the sport closely enough to see that he’s not playing in a league cup game wouldn’t make a serious comment that ill informed.
It never hurts having a beyond capable GK backup. I feel Howard has the starting spot locked up for the WC but having an in-form Guzan will only further push Howard and provide overall depth. Guzan will be the man in 2018. With that being said, Klinsmann should start Guzan in one of the final 2 WCQ games to experiment a bit without much loss of quality.
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel is now my favorite name.
No love for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink?
The first one sounds like an Adam Sandler character, and the second a character from game of thrones
Seeing “Vennegoor of Hesselink” crammed onto the back of a shirt is still one of the best things I’ve ever seen in soccer
Timmy is top class, no doubt. But I really want to see Guzan in the starting XI. He’s so damn good.
I have a doubt about Timmy being top class. 2 years ago he was but he’s slipping.
Guzan should get a run with the first team in the next few games in case Timmy gets injured/continues his slide. That way the defense isn’t forced to adapt to a new keeper at the World Cup.
Pretty impractical no? What’s JK say to Timmy? “Hey Timmy, in case you’ve become a complete disaster by the world cup, I’m going to get your backup some more experience. So you can sit these games out. Thanks!”
I mean, it’s nothing JK hasn’t done before. This is starting to remind me of Kahn and Lehmann in 2006. Timmy is still very good, but he’s not playing at the level he was a few years ago. Guzan keeps looking better and better, making incredible save after incredible save. And Guzan is getting much better at organizing the Villa defense, which is where Timmy is supposed to have the big advantage over Guzan.
And frankly, if JK were to decide that Guzan was the better option, I think Timmy would handle it like a pro.
I think El Guzano at this stage is the more dynamic keeper.
Does that mean he is the best for the US right now. I think I put him and Timmy on pretty much the same level when everything is taken into account.
Agreed, if I was ranking US players overall atm I’d have Bradley-Donovan-Altidore-Howard-Guzan-Dempsey. Very close.