Bruce Arena’s decision to name three largely inexperienced goalkeepers in his first United States men’s national team squad suggests that there are exciting times ahead – chances are, one of those players will make the spot their own and excel over the coming years.
We can all admit that the United States aren’t among the heavyweights of international football, with the likes of Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina dominating on the world stage. However, we are among the very best when it comes to producing top goalkeepers.
Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard all come to mind. Aside from the hundreds of combined caps that they racked up for the national team, they also spent large parts of their careers playing in the English Premier League, which is often viewed as the best league competition in the sport.
Another name on that list is Brad Guzan, who, until recently, had succeeded Tim Howard as the national team’s first choice keeper. It appears that Arena may be considering his future, but aged just 32, there is still time for the experienced shot-stopper to turn it around.
Guzan grew up playing soccer in Illinois, initially turning out for the Chicago Magic Soccer Club, before taking up his place between the sticks on the Providence Catholic High School team. His progression towards a career in soccer took another step forward when he departed for college, as he soon took up his place in the University of South Carolina’s Gamecocks squad, where he would go on to be named in the All-America squad in his second year.
The emerging talent would never make it through college, as the offer of a Generation Adidas contract, which provided him a route into the professional game, proved too good to turn down. Guzan was allocated to Chicago Fire, but he would spend his year with the club playing for their reserve side in the USL Premier Development League, before joining Chivas USA via the 2005 SuperDraft.
Guzan was immediately thrown into the mix and performed relatively well. However, a poor start to the 2006 season saw him lose his place to Preston Burpo. This appeared to be a make or break moment in Guzan’s career, but the youngster proved his mettle, regained the spot and cemented his place among the league’s best goalkeepers.
Winning the 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award sealed the deal, and Guzan was soon on his way to the Premier League to join Aston Villa, where he would play as backup to fellow American Brad Friedel. It would be a long way, but Guzan eventually got his chance in the 2012/13 campaign, when he was favoured over Shay Given as first-choice keeper.
The shot-stopper would help Aston Villa to avoid relegation on a number of occasions, before the historic club eventually succumbed to the inevitable in 2016. Unwilling to play at a lower level, Guzan joined newly promoted Premier League side Middlesbrough last summer. However, his path has, so far, been blocked by former Barcelona star Victor Valdes.
Unwilling to spend what should be his best years on the sidelines, Guzan has agreed terms with expansion side Atlanta United FC, to rejoin Major League Soccer once the 2016/17 Premier League season comes to an end in June.
In doing so, Guzan follows in the footsteps of the likes of Keller and Howard, who returned to the States to finish their careers. However, for Guzan, this isn’t a final goodbye before he hangs up his boots – he still has a number of years left in him and will undoubtedly have his eyes set on Arena’s USMNT side