BOSTON — Brad Guzan doesn’t need to prepare for a fight. BattlingÂ for a spot in the starting lineupÂ is all heÂ has done since becoming a professional soccer player nearly a decade ago.
But Guzan, 30, was thrust into a new situation in late August when Tim Howard decided to take a year-long break from the U.S. men’s national team. After backing up Howard since 2006, GuzanÂ became the starting goalkeeper for Team USA overnight.
Guzan now is the presumed incumbent starter ahead of Nick Rimando, Bill Hamid and others, but he won’t allow the sudden change in circumstances toÂ alterÂ his approach to playing for Aston Villa in the Premier League or the United States.
“For me, nothing’s really changed,” Guzan said Monday before the United States’ practice session. “I continue to train at my best, and ultimately you try and make it difficult for the manager come team selection time. Hopefully your name is name is called in the first 11.”
Guzan has experiencedÂ both sides of the starter-backup divide during his career.Â Guzan was the starter at Chivas USA from 2005 toÂ JulyÂ 2008 when Aston Villa purchased him from the Major League Soccer club. Guzan spent the next four seasons (2008-09 to 2011-12) backing up two of the finest goalkeepers the Premier League has ever seen — Brad Friedel and Shay Given — before finally earning the starting job under current Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert. Guzan now is in his third season as Aston Villa’s No. 1 goalkeeper,Â and he will use the experience of beating out former mainstays he gained in England to help face this new challenge with the national team.
“It goes back to training well and taking the opportunity when it presents itself,” Guzan said. “You have to seize the moment because, in soccer, you don’t know when the next chance is going to come. You have to be ready to take it. You do that by training well, being prepared and then when your name’s called for a game, you’re ready to help the team. I’ve been fortunate to play the last few years in England in the Premier League, and I try to use that experience to not only better myself as a player but also to help the team — because that’s what it’s all about.”
The U.S. national team now is in a new cycle, and Guzan has gone from being a squad player to an expected key contributor and veteran leader. Guzan sees his elevated status as part of the natural rhythm of the sport.
“It’s always an honor and a privilege to be called in to represent your country,” Guzan said. “I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been around this national team for nine years now. You see some new faces now with the new cycle starting, and you try to lend a hand and help when you can.”
Earning and retaining the job as the United States’ No. 1 in Howard’s absence is Guzan’s first order of business. When Howard returns, Guzan won’t simply step aside and give back the position. He’ll make Howard take it back — if he can. That’s how Guzan has always gone about his soccer business.
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