by Abdul Kashif
Bradley Edwin Guzan – that’s Brad Guzan to the rest of us – is making his mark for Aston Villa this season and last night helped his team book a trip to Wembley in a thrilling League Cup semi-final second-leg encounter.
‘Brad Junior’ – as many Villa fans have dubbed him - is keen to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot and Villa teammate Brad Friedel by becoming a rock - for both club and country.
The 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year caught the eye of Martin O’Neill following rave reviews for Chivas USA and opted to join Villa, despite being linked with a host of European clubs.
Guzan, 25, alongside fellow Villan Eric Lichaj, is also a former standout for the Chicago Magic Soccer Club, one of America’s finest youth teams.
After a string of impressive performances in the Carling Cup - including an incredible four penalty saves against Sunderland - the American is hopeful that he has staked a claim for a starting place.
He tells Goal.com UK: “With Brad Friedel playing fantastic for the team, it’s difficult. When you get these opportunities, you want to prove to your team mates and coaching staff that you can contribute.
“You want to help the team to be successful and for me it is great to be involved in any success that we achieve.”
For any young player, having to relocate to a new country can be a daunting experience. Guzan made the move from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles to Birmingham in 2008 and has never looked back.
He says he has ‘settled well’ in England and enjoys the lifestyle and culture of his adopted home.
“I lived in L.A for three-and-a-half years and played there and so when I came over, it was a bit of a change from Los Angeles to Birmingham. But in saying that, everything has been great,” he said.
“You find a lot of similarities in America that you do over in England and vice versa so when you go from one to the other it’s quite an easy transition.”
With a Starbucks virtually on every corner these days, a taste of America is never too far away. “Exactly. When I need a little bit of an American pick me up, I’m straight over,” he adds.
The U.S has a history of producing world-class keepers with names such as Tim Howard and Villa’s own Brad Friedel currently gracing the Premier League. Guzan enthuses that it is ‘great’ to work with Friedel - a keeper he has always looked up to and someone who has ‘seen it all in his career.’
He said: “For somebody like me, working with him on a daily basis and getting to know him inside the dressing room has been brilliant.
“You can’t teach somebody experience. You’ve got to go in there, you’ve got to learn and get your hands dirty, so to speak. Being able to take that away from him, his composure, it’s been great for me.”
Real Salt Lake were crowned 2009 MLS Cup champions in a shock win over L.A Galaxy. Former Chivas USA shot-stopper Guzan was disappointed to see Chivas crash out in the playoffs but admitted he still keeps tabs on his ex-club.
He is thrilled to see that MLS is developing well but stressed that there are still ‘wrinkles that need to be ironed out.’
“I’ve got loads of friends there and coaches that have helped me so I follow them pretty regularly actually,” said the U.S international.
“It’s one of those leagues that’s still growing. It’s going in the right direction and it’s going to continue going in the right direction.
“Teams in the (CONCACAF) Champions League have consistently shown on an international level as well as MLS that they can hold their own now and that’s great for U.S soccer.”
World Cup 2010 is now firmly on the horizon and the heat is on for players to cement their places on the flight to South Africa. After helping the U.S qualify, Guzan admitted that he is desperate to be involved in the ‘greatest show on earth.’
“With the few opportunities that I’ve had, I’ve spoken with the manager and he’s been pleased with my performances. It’s never easy for a goalkeeper to come in when you’re not playing regularly, to come into a team and be successful,” he added.
“It’s a matter of trying to play games and take that form into the national team and when my number’s called, help the team and hopefully make a run at the World Cup.”