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.