With questions surrounding Tim Howard’s international future following this summer’s World Cup, current USA backup Brad Guzan is prepared to push for the number one spot, whatever the incumbent starter’s decision.
Howard’s steady and ever-reliable presence in the US goal over the years has seen Guzan restricted to just 25 appearances since his 2006 debut, with the Everton goalkeeper proving his value to Jurgen Klinsmann in Brazil with a record 15-save performance in the 2-1 extra-time defeat to Belgium in the last-16.
However, at 35, the Premier League stalwart is reported to be contemplating whether to hang up his gloves with the national team and, having been waiting in the wings for some time, the Aston Villa standout is the man most expect to be starting when Russia 2018 rolls around.
Having originally pushed Shay Given out of the first-choice job at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Guzan has earned a reputation over the past two seasons as one of the top shot-stoppers in the Premier League, keeping the relegation-threatened side in numerous games with his impressive performances.
With the club currently preparing to face the Houston Dynamo in Saturday’s second game of their US pre-season tour, Villa reserve Given has seen his teammate’s internationals credentials up close and personal and believes he’s in fact been challenging Howard for some time now.
‘I think he’s challenging Tim already, and I think that’s why Tim’s done so well in the World Cup because Brad’s breathing down his neck,’ he told reporters. ‘He’s got to be on top of his game to stay in the team.
‘If Tim does step down, then as far as I can see, it’s automatic that Brad would step into those gloves. He’s been in and around the squad for a number of years now with Klinsmann, and I think everyone in the US set-up knows how good he is as well.’
Guzan meanwhile was open about his ambitions when speaking to the media himself, but also stressed that he faces a battle for the job whatever unfolds in the near future.
‘I’ve constantly said that it’s my job to push Tim and try and make sure he’s at his best, and I’m at my best,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day the manager makes the decision on who plays.
‘I’ll continue to make sure I’m at my highest level. Whether it’s Tim or other guys in the goalkeeping group, I’ll push them and I’m sure they’ll push me.’
After Howard also recently moved to praise his understudy during an appearance on Good Morning America, the 29-year-old was further complimentary of the 104-times capped legend.
‘Tim has been so successful with the national team for so many years now and to have someone like that say those words about you is a good feeling,’ he added. ‘At the same time, I have to prove myself.
‘I don’t expect anything to be given to me or handed to me. It’s all about me proving myself and earning the right to play for my country.’
|Team||Pos||Save %||Cross Claim %||Goal Kick %||Throw %||Sweeper Keeper %||Error Lead To Goal||Apps||Mins|
|Brad Guzan||Aston Villa||GK||65.29||95.15||48.28||98.21||89.29||1||38||3,420|
Having also produced the likes of Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and Brad Freidel over the past two decades, the US remains a verifiable goalkeeping factory, and Guzan should continue that excellent pedigree if Howard does indeed step aside.
There are even numerous other worthy candidates currently plying their trade in MLS, such as Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Clint Irwin and Zac MacMath, but it would prove a big surprise were one of those names to leapfrog the former Chivas USA star.
Is Brad Guzan ready to take over the USA No. 1 job from Tim Howard?