There are plenty of positional battles throughout the U.S. Men’s National Team pool. It’s only natural given the state of the team, which now faces a lengthy rebuilding process. Naturally, old stars are phased out and new stars are, hopefully, brought in, tested and ready to roll by the time competitive matches resume.
One of the more interesting battles, though, is the goalkeeper battle, and that’s mainly because the picture has been fairly clear for so long. It’s always felt like there was a natural line of succession. Tony Meola gave way to Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel, who built legendary reputations of their own. Following their departures, Tim Howard stepped up and became a star in his own right. Eventually, he was joined by Brad Guzan but, by and large, it’s always been quite clear who had next.
Heading into Tuesday’s friendly with Portugal, the competition seems wide open with a number of different stars having their own chance to make a push for a bigger role in the 2022 cycle.
Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath and Jesse Gonzalez are the three goalkeepers that were named to the USMNT roster for the Portugal friendly, and each has a legitimate chance of competing for the number one jersey. Of the three, Hamid is the most experienced and is now set to head to FC Midtjylland and begin his European journey. If his time in Denmark is successful and if the former D.C. United star can stay healthy, Hamid should be a regular throughout the next few years.
Horvath and Gonzalez both have plenty of upside, though. The former is in a bit of a battle for Club Brugge’s starting spot but, with Champions League and Europa League experience under his belt at just 22 years old, Horvath has plenty of time to reach a higher level. Jesse Gonzalez is the same at age 22 with two solid seasons with FC Dallas already on his resume.
Still, the most promising goalkeeping prospect may not be on the roster at all as Zack Steffen continues to thrive with the Columbus Crew. The former University of Maryland and Freiburg goalkeeper really came into his own throughout the 2017 campaign and his heroics have led his team all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. His opposite in those finals, Alex Bono, also has developed quite a bit for Toronto FC and, at just 23 years old, the former Syracuse goalkeeper has time on his side to develop into a potential national team contributor.
And then there’s the younger group of budding stars, with Jonathan Klinsmann likely serving as the most recognizable. The former Cal goalkeeper recently made the bench for Hertha Berlin’s senior team, and it appears he could be on a good path towards eventual Bundesliga playing time in the future after shining for the U.S. at the U-20 level.
Even younger than that is Justin Garces, fresh off his efforts at the U-17 World Cup. The Atlanta United product is still too young to feature any time soon, but showed signs of a solid goalkeeper during the U.S. team’s run.
It’s quite clear that there are a number of promising young goalkeepers coming through the pipeline, but you can’t write off Guzan just yet. While Howard’s time with the national team is probably finished, Guzan still has a chance to lock down that senior leadership role. His form with Atlanta United was very good and, if he can continue that form, he should continue on with the national team.
There’s a lot to shake out in the next few years and a lot of prospects and players to keep an eye on. But, for the first time in quite a while, there’s a very open goalkeeper competition as the USMNT begins a search for the next official number one.