After spending most of his international career as a backup to Tim Howard, the 28-year-old has a chance to shine against Costa Rica and Mexico.COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The U.S. team's PR staff asked Brad Guzan to remain on the sideline of the pitch following Wednesday's practice as a couple dozen media members made their way down from the press box.
Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and most of the other big names on Jurgen Klinsmann's roster signed autographs before making their way back to the locker room. Guzan stood alone for a moment before having cameras and recorders shoved in front of his face.
Guzan, who has emerged as Aston Villa's starting goalkeeper this season, isn't used to this sort of attention while on national team duty. That's because Tim Howard is usually around. And Howard certainly isn't one to shy away from the spotlight whether he's on or off the field.
A back injury to Howard, however, puts Guzan at center stage ahead of Friday's match against Costa Rica at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and Tuesday's road contest against Mexico. If the U.S. doesn't pick up a positive result in one of matches, it could mean bye-bye to Klinsmann.
Guzan isn't feeling the pressure.
"I feel confident," Guzan says. "For the first time in a few years I've been playing consistent minutes over in England, so I feel confident and I feel ready. I'm not new to the national team and I'm excited for the opportunity."
The 28-year-old has every reason to feel confident at the moment. He recently signed a new three-year contract with Aston Villa and has rewarded the Premier League club with a solid showing as the starting keeper after spending the previous four seasons as the backup. During the 2010-11 campaign, Guzan failed to make a single league appearance for his club. This year he has 28 starts.
While Howard has been between the posts for just about every meaningful game for the Stars and Stripes since 2007, Guzan has a handful of starts in World Cup qualifying with the men's team. But you wouldn't guess at his lack of experience at this level by watching how he conducts himself leading up to the biggest moment of his international career.
"Any time you can play consistently it's going to give you confidence," Guzan says. "For myself, being able to make saves is important for a goalkeeper when you haven't played for a few years. It's good to be playing week in and week out. It builds your confidence for when you come into a situation like this."
Guzan says he has always believed in himself and has been waiting for the right opportunities to come his way. In 2010, he even led some to believe that he could challenge Howard for the No. 1 spot following an inspiring performance against mighty Brazil at the Meadowlands.
Coming off the bench at the half during the summer friendly, the Chicago native kept Brazil from scoring in the final 45 minutes of his squad's 2-0 defeat.
"That's your job as a goalkeeper," he says. "When you're called upon, you have to make saves."
Only one other keeper in the Premier League has faced for shots than Guzan this season, which means he should be prepared for what's about to come. Due to injuries and Klinsmann's decision to keep veteran defender Carlos Bocanegra off the roster, the U.S. will likely be forced to play with four defenders who have never started alongside each other.
“I feel confident in front of him and I think with him between the posts, you’ve got to feel solid,” said defender Geoff Cameron. “The guy makes saves for Aston Villa all the time. He’s playing in one of the best leagues in the world. He gets a good amount of shots a game so I’m pretty confident of him getting the job done.”
And you can be sure Guzan will be just as confident as he was after Wednesday's practice when the ball kicks off in Colorado.