Patience has been a virtue, albeit perhaps a frustrating one at times for Brad Guzan. Sitting second in the pecking order behind Tim Howard in line for USA's starting goalkeeping position, Guzan has spent much of his international career watching from the sideline.
But persistence has paid off for the 31-year old, with Howard's decision to take a year-long break from USA duty after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, affording Guzan the opportunity to seize the starting spot in goal for the Stars and Stripes.
“It’s been a long journey,” Guzan told FIFA.com of his path to becoming the No1. “When you go through a journey like the one I’ve been on, you take the positives with the negatives.”
It was unclear if Guzan would retain his top spot on a permanent basis, despite earning Golden Glove honours during the CONCACAF Gold Cup and overseeing victories against Germany and the Netherlands over the summer. But Klinsmann answered that question quite concisely last Friday.
“Brad is the No1; Tim is the No2,” Klinsmann said prior to the Americans' friendly against Peru, Howard’s first involvement since his return to international football. And the Illinois native does not seem to be bothered by any of the media attention or potential distractions that have arrived with Howard's reintroduction into the team.
“We have a mutual respect for each other,” Guzan said. “We understand only one guy can play. The fact that Tim’s come back into the national team picture doesn’t change anything for me."
*Gearing up for Mexico
*Guzan did not disappoint in his first match with Howard as his back-up, either. He made an excellent double-save in the second half to keep the score level at 1-1, just moments before Jozy Altidore bagged his brace to earn the United States a 2-1 victory over Peru.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be with the national team for a while now, but when you get that call [to represent your country] there’s always a level of excitement there, and that never gets old,” Guzan said. “And now to have the backing of the manager, being the so-called No1, that level excitement is even higher. I want to be the guy that’s counted on and depended on. I want to be involved in the big games.”
Brazil put in a dominant 4-1 performance against the Americans on Tuesday, but with that friendly now a memory, Guzan has another big game to focus on in a matter of weeks. USA meet Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup on 10 October, a play-off between the two most recent Gold Cup champions to determine the region’s representative for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
“We all know how important the Confederations Cup is. Anytime we play Mexico it’s a huge game, it’s a huge rivalry. When you add the Confederations Cup as a prize at the end of, it makes the game that much sweeter.”
Learning from the best
For a player who only started to truly focus on goalkeeping when he reached university – he enjoyed running around as a striker on occasion for his youth teams – Guzan has enjoyed broad tutelage from some of the best in the business.
“As I get older I try to build off experiences from different goalkeepers that I’ve worked with,” Guzan said. “I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of America’s best: Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard. I’ve also worked with Shay Given (at Aston Villa), whose resume speaks for itself.
“I try to pick their brains and examine their tendencies to see if what works for them also works for me. I try to mould myself and foster my own style, but with an added influence from the goalkeepers I’ve learned from.”
Guzan has indeed moulded a style of his own; his imposing 6'4" frame commands the penalty box with a large presence, while he is consistently heard above the buzz of packed stadiums shouting instructions to his defenders, and is quick to make point-blank reaction saves at a moment's notice. And after a journey of nearly ten years' time waiting in the wings, Guzan is ready for the glory that comes with becoming the United States' next great goalkeeper.