Throughout this MLS season there have been few keepers that have stuck out quite like Brad Guzan. I will be one of the first to admit that when he appeared in goal for Atlanta United there was much skepticism rolling around in my head. Since I follow the EPL closely, I had seen his final season with the then relegated Aston Villa. His performances at that club did not lead me to have very much faith in his abilities. This season has completely convinced me otherwise. All of the doubts that worried me about having him in goal have evaporated. I came to realize that the judgments I had made were because the mistakes he made in England were mainly not of his doing. Many goals that were scored against him at Villa were impossible to save by any keeper, or blatant mistakes made by back 4.
Yes he did let the occasional goal past that he should have stopped, but this was no reason for me to have the doubts that I did about Guzan. He has started for the USMNT and has 60 Caps for our country. Now when I watch him play at Mercedes-Benz it brings back memories of the old Dome. When I hear the common chant by every 5 Stripes Supporter when he makes a trademark save: “GUUUUUUUUUUZ.” The sound brings me back to 2002 SEC Championships when Musa Smith would shoot through the hole for a 40 yard scamper. Guzan means just as much to United as Smith meant to UGA Football.
This year he has certainly gone above and beyond many expectations. He may not be the best or most athletic goal keeper in the MLS, but the guy is clutch when he needs to be. It seems like he has added certain things to his arsenal that he did not have before this season. When he was in the EPL he would often always try to save the ball with his hands no matter which way the ball was being shot at him. This season he has taken on the magical ability that many great goal keepers like Manchester United’s David De Gea use on a regular basis. Instead of always going after the ball with his hands, he instead uses his legs and foot to widen the coverage his body shows to the attacker. Guzan also possesses a great foot that can deftly place the ball where the outfield player needs it.
There is no question that without Guzan Atlanta would not be at the top of the Eastern Conference right now. This is not to say that back up keeper and home grown product Alec Kann has not stepped up in key situations. His performance during the Camepones Cup against Club America was phenomenal. He made some absolutely out of this world saves during that game, which without them would have almost certainly put the game out of reach.
As long as Guzan stays in his current form it would be hard to think that Atlanta’s positioning going into the playoffs and US Open Cup final looks good. It only feels right to give him the praise that he deserves after he was doubted by so many. I was completely wrong about Brad Guzan’s abilities, and worries about his age. The 36 year old has played excellent for the 5 Stripes this season, and without his talents United would not have reached the heights that we have this season. As ever coach has ever told a defensive player “Offense wins games, defense wins Championships.” The 5 Stripes already have one MLS Cup, and the view of most fans seems to be the possibility of a second is close at hand.