Brad Guzan didn’t expect to be a starting goalie in MLS, but having gotten the chance through an injury to starter Martin Zuniga, the rookie first faltered, then found his footing with the expansion side. Now he intends to make it difficult for the coach of Chivas USA to take him out of the net. Andrea Canales talked to the rookie keeper about his rollercoaster of a season.
How did it feel to get thrown into that preseason Chivas USA scrimmage against the US national team when Zuniga went down with his injury?
My first reaction was, “I hope he’s alright.” Because I know that he tore his ACL – he had surgery about a year ago. My first concern was – was he going to be alright and how serious was it? As for me, stepping in and having to play, at first it was a little nerve-racking - being 20 years old and stepping into a pretty big situation and some pretty big shoes to fill. I was a little nervous, but the guys helped me out a lot and made me feel a lot more comfortable. I’m starting to feel my own, being with the team and everything, so it’s coming out pretty well.
Did you get any tips from Martin?
Every day, he’s usually out here. Usually, he’s out here everyday with myself and Javier (Barragan – another goalie), helping us out, giving us – You know, he’s been in the game for numerous – many more years than we have, especially in the professional ranks, and he’s played at the highest levels, so every day he’s always trying to help us out and give us helpful hints and pointers here and there. He’s a great leader and a big asset for our team.
Chivas USA has committed to a very attacking style that leaves you vulnerable in the back – are you nervous about that?
No, I don’t think that makes me nervous. I think that is just more of the responsibility that I’m going to have. That’s my job. When you play at a high level like this, and you play different formations and different systems, styles of play, you might have more responsibility, as you would with this team. I just have to step up and contribute on my behalf to the team. Cause ten guys in front of me, they’re busting their butts for those minutes and when they come down, I have to be able to help them out.
You’ve faced MLS and Mexican league teams now – what is the difference?
Right. I mean, in the MLS I think it might be a little more direct as with Atlante – they might want to keep possession a little bit more. I think we’re going to have to adjust to any style of play that we play whether it’s in the MLS or against Club America. I think we just have to adjust to the game and feel the game out.
You are quite young for a starting goalkeeper – how do you feel about that?
Like I said before, right when I first kind of jumped into it, it was a little nerve-wracking, but now it’s exciting. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to prove myself. I just have to try to take full advantage of the opportunity I have.
How is your Spanish coming?
Slowly. Very, very slowly, but surely. I’m starting to learn. They guys are helping me – words here and there and I’m able to communicate more and more everyday.
You had a touch stretch there of a few mistakes in games, but then you were able to turn it around and you’ve been a bright spot for the team in a lot of games. How does it feel to make the change? The fans were tough on you back then, but they cheer your improvement now.
It’s great. It’s great support. It’s good for my confidence – every day, every game, - it’s just a matter of time for me. It feels good to finally start playing like I know how to play.
How do you feel about potentially giving up your spot? Zuniga is healthy - the goalkeeping decision hasn’t been made final.
I think that when the time comes, coach will have to make the decision. Right now, I’m playing with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, that “Hey, this is my spot now.” And you have to have that – otherwise your confidence isn’t going to be as high. It’s good for me personally.
How is your communication with the backline?
Every game that improves. Our confidence in one another, our support – and just being comfortable playing with each other.
Do you prefer playing home versus away?
For our team, it really doesn’t matter, because we have tremendous fan support on the road. And at home, it’s great. So either place, it’s fun to play and it’s good to be out there with my teammates doing what I can to help them be successful.
The fans have dubbed you “El Guzano” which means, “The Worm”. What do you think of the nickname?
(Laughs) Hey, whatever works. It’s fine. It’s all good.
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