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It’s been a good year for goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Seriously!

Feb 10, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT

West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

Aston Villa is certainly suffering a bedraggled season, committed to sticking through thin and thin with a young group, and taking the cuts and lumps to show for it.

So in that regard there has been no joy around Villa Park, not for anyone, including U.S. international Brad Guzan.

On the other hand, Villa’s forgettable campaign is doing something to build the resume, respect and professional chops of the U.S. backup in goal. And if Villa can stay up in the Premier League – Guzan and Co. took a huge step in that direction today with three huge points against West Ham – all the better.

As I watched Villa hold on desperately at the end (And barely so!) and then celebrate wildly (As they should!), here’s what I thought regarding Guzan:

He isn’t buckling under the pressure. Guzan is showing us something right now, and what he’s demonstrating should not be discounted or under-valued.

There is tremendous pressure in a relegation battle. And make no mistake, today’s result may have allowed fans around Villa Park to exhale for a day, supplying some small measure of temporary relief as Paul Lambert’s club climbs one spot beyond the drop zone’s terrible, swift sword, but Guzan and his midlands mates are still in the fight of their young lives.

Everyone who has been around a club holding off the relegation reaper will tell you: there is no pressure like it. It truly is crush depth, not even comparable to the pressure of matches when top-table stakes are exposed and looking to be claimed.

Pressure amplifies what a player is – what any man or woman is, really.

Guzan has held steadfast this year, picking the ball from his net time and again, but picking up his head each time and getting on with it. And still making saves and handling his business with a calm aplomb.

The time is coming when Guzan will be needed in a major U.S. match. It might be due to injury or further down the line; Tim Howard is five years older, as we know. Either way, Guzan is showing everyone in his first year as a first-choice starter in the world’s top league that he can take a punch, pressure wise.

In this way, this has been a good season for the Illinois native.

  1. charliej11 - Feb 10, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Please support soccer in the US, so we don’t have to have our best players in these circumstances.
    It really is crucial for soccer here. There are the occasional Brad Guzen that will want to go abroad and play in such a joke, but it will always be the exception for our great athletes, not the rule…..

    They are 40 points away from winning it all. For those that are bad at math that is 13 straight wins and still some work to do……Should my super athletic kid go into soccer ? No, no he shouldn’t. Hopefully that changes.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 10, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      I’m not sure I understand. You know Guzan was at Chivas USA before, right? No disrespect, but that club is and has been a mess in a lot of ways. Now he’s the best league in the world (perhaps). He’s a starter. His career is in a great place. … Plus, Villa is not a bad club … just a mid-level club going through a rebuilding campaign.

      • genebrooklyn - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Love Guzan, but I always thought his permanently surprised and shocked look came from the shellshock he must have felt as a rookie at Chivas USA. He had to pick the ball out of his net during those first couple of years behind Chivas non-existent defense as much as he does now (but did not have the benefit of experience then).

      • deeks2 - Feb 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Mid-level EPL clubs exist to get beat up by the big money giants. One of things I give MLS credit for is every clu has a chance. Except for CUSA.

  2. bellerophon30 - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    You have to wonder now if Guzan will get some games in the USMNT. Bradley and Klinsmann have always been so dependant on Howard that we never really have found out what Brad can do at the international level. And with Tim spitting the bit so much lately………well Jurgen has to at least think about it, right?

  3. theasoccerist - Feb 10, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    He’s a strong keeper – ranked about the middle of the table of Americans in the EPL http://tinyurl.com/bzcyzbk. What should also be noted is Cameron’s strong season.

    What about Shea when he gets started – any ideas of how he will do?

  4. charliej11 - Feb 11, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    I think you just proved my point Steve. CUSA was terrible last year and only finished 36 points back. AV will not stay that close. CUSA made the playoffs a few years back, with one the teams I didnt want Seattle to face. Hope. AV ? He is stuck there playing in meaningless games the rest of his career.

    • dp2310 - Feb 11, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Meaningless? I’m not so sure you know how it works… He is getting top flight experience in a relegation battle. Every game counts for them. There’s a lot more meaningless games for teams in the bottom for the MLS than the BPL.

      Just because the teams in the MLS are closer together in standings doesn’t mean its a more competitive league, its just a more even league with the skill level being closer for each team. Quite frankly, that doesn’t equal to better or more entertaining soccer. It just means watching the same type of teams play each other more often.

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