Brad Guzan has been anointed as Tim Howard’s backup for international play with the US National Team. But count me among the skeptics as to whether or not Guzan is really ready for this responsibility. With Howard suspended for the next US qualifier in El Salvador, we’ll learn a lot next month about the Aston Villa keeper.
Bob Bradley’s preference for Guzan is well know: having managed Guzan at Chivas USA for a season, he seems to have an unlimited faith in the keeper. But in Guzan’s limited US National Team action over the past year and a half he has made the sort of mistakes that Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Tony Meola and Brad Friedel rarely if ever made while wearing a US shirt.
In October 2007, Guzan badly misjudged a Swiss breakaway, came out of the area and handled the ball illegally, drawing a yellow card and conceding a free kick in a dangerous location. The free kick was cleared and the US held on to a 1-0 victory.
In May 2008, Steven Gerrard scored an easy breakaway goal thanks to poor midfield possession play by Rico Clark and Michael Bradley. But on this goal, England’s second in a 2-0 win at Wembley, Guzan reacted late and seemed indecisive about where to position himself.
The next month in a World Cup qualifier in Bridgetown against Barbados Guzan made two errors: one was misjudging a cross which led to a goal that the referee nullified on a questionable offsides. Then later Guzan misjudged the ball flight as Barbados had a shot hit off the crossbar.
While Guzan is young and physically talented, through the years the US has had more than its fair share of keepers who never got serious national team looks. Think about Mike Amman before his terrible injury, or Kevin Hartman, Ian Feuer, Matt Reis, Tom Presthus Matt Jordan, Jonny Walker or even Nicky Rimando who probably got more training camp looks than the previous seven guys I have listed. Each hit their prime when the US had an amazingly deep goalkeeper pool.
Now with Brad Guzan as the number two I fear the best days of goalkeeping in the US are behind us. More and more foreign keepers are being signed in MLS (the early days of MLS found maybe 2-3 foreign keepers a season in the league) and the American keepers in Europe are standing out the way they once did.
All of this discussion could be immaterial however. Should Tim Howard limit his bookings and continue to be healthy the US will have one of the best keepers on the planet between the pipes in South Africa.