Feb 10, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT
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.
- Can the United States deal with success vs. Honduras? 0
- Lineup prediction for U.S.-Honduras qualifier 2
- Big opportunity ahead as United States faces Honduras in World Cup qualifying action 1
- Huge cost of World Cups: Did we need a protest like Brazil’s to point out the obvious? 9
- Early returns from England’s offseason tell a tale of two Manchesters 0
- What we learned from Tuesday’s U.S. win over Panama (19)
- Which U.S. men have locked up World Cup roster spots? (16)
- Three huge positives to take from USA’s convincing win over Panama (15)
- Broadcast of U.S. v. Panama was second highest audience for World Cup Qualifier (14)
- Marseille’s hideous away kit one of the worst of all time (14)
- Can Heat focus enough to avoid elimination?
- CSN: Bruins' defense never rests in Game 3 win
- CSN: Celtics-Clippers KG, Rivers trade talks dead
- PFT: Freed Johnson wants second chance in NFL
- PBT: Judges rules Iverson did not kidnap children
- PFT: Rodgers says Packers' moves a 'wake-up call'
- PFT: Beckham turned down chance to kick in NFL
- Play Video: Police clash with protesters in Brazil
- Play Video: Highlights: Sounders win in final minutes
- Play Video: Highlights: Revolution dismantle Galaxy
- Play Video: What does New York FC have to do to succeed?
- Play Video: The Hype: Bending the screen like Beckham
- Play Video: Galaxy's Rogers talks about coming out to the public