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Hey guys, chill the heck out: Brad Guzan has got this

Mar 10, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT

Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

News of Tim Howard’s back injury, unfortunate though it is for the longtime U.S. No. 1, should be nothing more than a little fender dent on the U.S. bus toward Brazil.

Brad Guzan will do fine.

The Aston Villa man has shown again and again this year that he can stand the test. Just because Villa is not competing for top spots in England – not ever threatening to sniff top-table glory this season – doesn’t mean there isn’t pressure aplenty at the Birmingham ground. In fact, the pressure around Villa Park is immense. Countless players and managers have spelled it out for me over the years: there is no pressure like the weight of a relegation fight.

And yet, Guzan delivers one outstanding performance after another, with no signs of slippage, no signs of cracked confidence due to Villa’s losing or to a goals against ledger that teeters somewhere between “brutal” and “unspeakable.” He was a game-changer once again Saturday as Villa prevailed in a huge “six-pointer” over Reading.

(MORE: Crucial win sees Aston Villa move out of drop zone) 

Further, Guzan’s international experience in the U.S. shirt may shade toward the limited side, but it’s hardly down at zero.

Guzan, 28, has appeared in five World Cup qualifiers (a 3-1-1 mark). In most of his matches the United States already had sufficient qualifier points in pocket, or they were matches where Bob Bradley’s team would win comfortably.

But there one was a biggie as the United States neared its ticket punch for World Cup 2010, although it was anything but across the finish line.

That was in 2009, during a contest in El Salvador. (And we all know how these Central American contests can prove uncomfortably tricky.) Tim Howard was serving a one-game suspension, so it was Guzan between the posts that night during a 2-2 draw at the Cuscatlán Stadium, San Salvador.

So, nothing that will happen in Denver on March 22 will faze the Illinois born-and-bred Guzan. Plus, there’s this:

The United States needs three points from these two matches (against Costa Rica in suburban Denver, then four nights later at Mexico.) The pressure will be on that match in Denver; the United States must emerge from DSG Park with a “W” and nothing else. From there?

If we’re honest, no one expects Jurgen Klinsmann’s side to win in Mexico – never mind that historic win in a friendly eight months ago. If they drag out a point out of Azteca Stadium, well, wonderful! If they manage to sneak away with a win, bust out the bubbly for three “bonus” points earned en route to Rio! But no one expects it.

But if the United States can carry the Denver night and scoop up all three points against Costa Rica in potentially chilly Colorado, you can stamp “Mission Accomplished” on this so called FIFA World Cup qualifier “double date.”

The United States, rebuilt back line and all, backstopped ably by Guzan, should be plenty to handle that task.

  1. tylerbetts - Mar 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Let’s also not forget Guzan’s performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup. That Egypt game was tremendous.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 10, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      True that. Guzan started in the American’s 3-0 win against Egypt in that third group game. It helped the United States get into the semifinals.

  2. jcharlesw01 - Mar 10, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Not a Guzan fan. He’s too streaky, not at all consistent in international play. I’d like them to give Bill Hamid from DC a serious look.

    • crnelson10 - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      For two crucial qualifiers, one of which is in Azteca? I hope you don’t plan on driving seeing as how you’re clearly drunk.

    • krazymunky - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Id prefer a so called ‘streaky’ EPL starting goalie over an MLS goalie.

  3. genebrooklyn - Mar 10, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Excellent reply.

  4. bellerophon30 - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Hey Steve, just saw Friedel’s tweets that he would be happy to fill in if Guzan got hurt. What do you think about that? Is he a better option than the MLS guys if the other Brad goes down? And let’s face it, with the porous Villa defense, a collision that would do so isn’t out of the realm.

    • mikeevergreen - Mar 11, 2013 at 11:47 PM

      Anyone who saves penalty kicks in the World Cup is good enough for my team.

  5. charliej11 - Mar 10, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    In spite of all the MLS hate raging above, there are plenty of goalies ( I figured that term would annoy the MLS haters ) that we can turn to.

    Can Guzan play winger ? We are missing a guy out of MLS that seems to be very irreplaceable.

    Must win game, but if we win it, we are fine…….

  6. jkaflagg - Mar 10, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    Given the amount of shots Guzan has faced this year at Aston Villa, he’s probably as least as good a bet to steal a point at Azteca as Howard…..

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