Brad Guzan – Player Profile.
Following the release or departure of 12 players this summer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Aston Villa squad barely has enough players left to form a competitive five-a-side team. That’s not the case and despite the need for one or two new faces, we still have a decent sized squad with a surprising amount of cover in some areas. With that in mind we here at ‘Up the Villa’ are going to profile everyone (well almost everyone) in our squad, discuss their values as Aston Villa players and what qualities they bring to our football team.
As we’ve had a bit of a love affair (totally justified by the way) with Shay Given recently, first up in our new feature is Mr Bradley Guzan. After a string of impressive performances for Juan Pablo Angel’s new team Chivas USA, Guzan went on to be named ‘MLS Goalkeeper of the Year’ in 2007. This was enough to convince Villa to make their move and after a deal fell through in January 2008, the transfer was finally completed in July of that year. The fee was a reported £600,000 and despite the keeper not getting the number of appearances he would have liked here, there is no doubt that the overall level of his performances has comfortably paid back the money spent on securing his services.
Guzan made his competitive Villa debut in a league cup defeat against Q.P.R. His European bow went a lot better though as Guzan kept a clean sheet and impressed as Villa beat Slavia Prague 1-0 in the Czech Republic. This display prompted Martin O’Neill (he of little hyperbole) to describe Guzan as a ‘Class goalkeeper in the making’. That particular European campaign ended in infamy with Mr O’Neill’s decision to field the reserves against CSKA Moscow. Guzan also made his first and only Premiership appearance to date in the same campaign coming on against Liverpool after the other Brad (Friedel) was sent off.
The start of the 2009-10 campaign and in particular our participation in the Peace Cup was arguably the moment fans became more aware of Guzan’s capabilities and especially his prowess for saving penalty kicks. After performing well throughout the tournament, Guzan saved his best for the final, producing a solid display before saving two penalties in the shoot-out. The second stop in particular was vital and also provided me with one of my favourite Guzan moments. Alessandro Del Piero (yes he of the amazing set-pieces) stepped up knowing that a successful penalty kick was all that stood between Juventus and a Peace Cup triumph. Guzan had other ideas. Del Piero tried…um to pass it into the net down the middle (as you do) and Guzan read him like a book, easily saving the weak effort. Villa went on to lift the Peace Cup, although there was nothing peaceful about the look Guzan gave Del Piero for what he just tried. Despite it being a preseason tournament, this remains one of my favourite Villa moments of recent years.
As the season kicked off, more glory would follow as Villa made it to the League Cup final. Guzan was instrumental in seeing Villa make the final, and his performance against Sunderland in the last 16 is one of the finer goalkeeping displays a Villan has made in recent seasons. Not only did he save a penalty in normal time, he also made an excellent save in extra time before going on to save three more penalties in the shoot out, ensuring Villa’s progression to the next round. The wild semi final second leg against Blackburn (people tend to forget he kept a clean sheet in the first leg) is perhaps where some people made their minds up that Guzan might not be good enough to ultimately be Villa’s number one. It’s interesting to wonder what would have happened with regards to the final if Guzan kept a clean sheet in the second leg.
Still O’Neill had a decision to make and ultimately plumped for experience as Brad Friedel was the man between the sticks at Wembley. As we all know we went on to lose and for me at least, Guzan should have kept his place in goals. He was a massive reason we made the final in the first place, and much like Stoke did last season when playing Sorensen (who played all the cup games previously) instead of Begovic, I think the manager should have kept faith with the keeper that performed heroics to get us there. I can only imagine how Guzan must have been feeling.
Last season saw Guzan loaned out to Hull City and by all accounts he did well. What the future holds for Brad with regards to Villa is hard to tell. Of course we’ve just signed Shay Given, so premiership opportunites at least, are likely to be limited. Whether he goes back out on loan, leaves permanently or stays at Villa, I think he has the potential to be a solid keeper in the future, and at 26 he still has many years ahead of him. Having a capable reserve goalkeeper is vital at the top level, and we definitely do at the Villa. Whether he will ever be our number one remains to be seen but considering the price we brought him for, we’ve done pretty well out of the deal.
Enjoy the Guzan save from Del Piero below (and enjoy the commentary!)