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Brad Guzan ready for true opportunity

Brad Guzan
The former Chivas USA goalkeeper signed with Aston Villa in 2008.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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FOX Soccer's Ives Galarcep will provide daily segments from Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT training camp from Orlando, Florida.

 

By all accounts, Brad Guzan is ready.

After five years of serving as an understudy to Brad Friedel and Shay Given, two of the most accomplished goalkeepers in the Barclays Premier League, Guzan believes he is ready to be a starter. That belief is nothing new. Now that he’s a free agent heading towards the summer transfer window, Guzan finds himself in control of his destiny in a way he has never been before.

“For me, my first and foremost priority is sorting out my club situation because at the age of 27, I need to be playing games,” Guzan said in an exclusive interview with FOX Soccer. “I want to be playing games and I think I’ve proven, not only to myself but to my teammates and to coaches, that I can play at the highest level and if given the opportunity i can play well.”

Guzan finally had his chance to play in the Premier League last December, when an injury to new Aston Villa starter Given opened the door. Guzan made the most of the chance, impressing over the course of seven matches, a stretch that included a shutout of Stoke City and a standout winning performance against Chelsea.

Yet, Guzan returned to the bench when Given returned to health. The 27-year-old made significant strides which led Aston Villa to approach him about a contract extension. Suddenly, other new suitors made inquiries about the American goalkeeper.

“I think that was always a question mark about me,” Guzan said. “It was ‘Okay he can step in and do it in a cup game, do it in a Europe game, come in and step in for one qualifier or a friendly, but can he do it over a run of games.’ For me that was the biggest point of showing that I can.”

Guzan’s run with Aston Villa also boosted his national team standing, which had taken a hit due to his lack of playing time at Villa. It led to Guzan earning a call-up for the team’s 1-0 win against Italy on Feb. 29, and has earned him a call-up to the team’s current training camp ahead of World Cup qualifying.

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“He’s always been in our plans but he was in a very difficult situation because Aston Villa chose to have a different No. 1 there,” Klinsmann said of Guzan. “I spoke many times to Alex McLeish throughout the year and he apologized all the time. He said it hurt him to put (Guzan) on the bench but he just goes with the other No. 1.

“Quality wise, Guzan is always in our plans and that’s why we brought him back into training in Italy,” Klinsmann said. “I think he’s come in here with an amazing attitude. He’s very hungry. He wants to be part of this program, he wants to be part of that team. He wants to go to Brazil in 2014 and that’s what he’s working on every second of the day.”

Guzan hasn’t ruled out a return to Aston Villa, though it is very clear that he has no interest in returning to the team as a back-up.

“When you get that taste of first team experience, playing first-team soccer, you want more of it, and for me, getting the yank and going back to a No. 2 role was frustrating. It was definitely frustrating.”

Despite the lack of playing time at Aston Villa, Guzan has no regrets about the move that brought him to the Premier League from Chivas USA in 2008. He had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best goalkeepers in the game,

“For me, working under those guys you take little things away from their game and try to put it into your game and try to mold that into a style of your own,” Guzan said, who spoke most fondly of his time as Friedel’s understudy. “Every day was a learning experience, not just the way he trained, but his angles, his composure and decision making.

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“Hopefully I’ve taken a lot of positives from what I learned from him.” One trait that Guzan seems to be picking up that Friedel has become notorious for is a semblance of a British accent. Talk to Guzan long enough and you will catch the British influence.

“It happens only because when you start speaking American English to these guys over there they start giving you a hard time and start asking ‘What does that mean, what does this mean’,” Guzan said with a laugh.

That British accent may not go away anytime soon, not with clubs in England lining up to grab him on a free transfer. Seven matches may not seem like much, but it was more than enough to show that Guzan is ready to become a full-time starter somewhere.

“At the top level you may only get one chance and when you get that chance you have to take it,” Guzan said. “Fortunately for me, I think I was able to and now hopefully I’m able to reap the benefits in terms of going somewhere and getting a starting spot.”

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