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

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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.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.