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Once a Goat: Brad Guzan Makes His Name on the International Stage

Chivas USA had several former Goats involved in the latest international window, but one player put himself above all the rest.

Guzan (in black) preserved a clean sheet in a blizzard last week.
Guzan (in black) preserved a clean sheet in a blizzard last week.

In case you missed it, the United States and Mexico drew 0-0 last night in Mexico City. The game had a surprising amount of Chivas USA-related people in it, from recently-retired forward Alejandro Moreno in the announcing booth for ESPN, to former Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez serving as Jurgen Klinsmann's right hand man on the USMNT coaching staff. Former Chivas midfielder Sacha Kljestan was called up to the national team, but did not see any action during the Mexico match or last week's game against Costa Rica. And speaking of Costa Rica, former Chivas USA defender Michael Umana played in his country's qualifiers, and even scored last night against Jamaica in a 2-0 win.

But the former Goat who deserves the most attention has to be goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Before last week, when starting USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard was ruled out with injury, Guzan had to content himself with being second choice at best, and prior to this season, he had even slipped out of the running altogether since he wasn't getting much playing time in England. What a difference a season makes, however. After surprising everybody by re-signing with Aston Villa last summer, Guzan became the first-choice starter this season for his club and has garnered rave reviews for a club in the midst of a relegation battle.

Although the United States continues to have a very deep goalkeeper pool, with even some great keepers (ahem, Dan Kennedy) failing to even get a sniff of the National Team, the conventional wisdom has been that Howard is the keeper until he decides to retire internationally. Although he certainly hasn't played badly for club and country, his exceptional performances have not been as frequent as they once were, and even prior to his injury, there was a growing chorus calling for Guzan to get a real chance between the sticks. But it wasn't going to happen without Howard going down or bowing out voluntarily, and Guzan stepped up.

With a defense that was very inexperienced on the international stage, Guzan helped keep two clean sheets in these last two qualifiers, both crucial for the USMNT's campaign to make it to Brazil 2014. Between the two matches, he made six saves, certainly not a massive number, but in games as high pressure as these, it is still impressive he kept the ball out of the net altogether. After all, it only takes one shot to decide a game.

Will Guzan's performances for club and country give Klinsmann reason to prefer him to Howard once the latter is healthy? That is unclear, although chances are Guzan will have to take a backseat once more. On the other hand, the former Goat didn't do anything wrong, and his composure, not to mention his ability, will give the U.S. coach reason to at least consider another changing of the guard. I doubt many people expected him to go with two MLS central defenders in Estadio Azteca, so maybe he'll be bold and give Guzan the gloves for the foreseeable future.

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