[Editor’s note]: Guy Bailey writes columns for The Yanks Are Coming throughout the English Premier League season. In those columns, he’ll discuss the happenings overseas in the world’s most popular sports league, as well as The Championship, where many Americans ply their trade. Guy offers a unique perspective on the league as a Brit who lived for a long while in Atlanta before moving back to Teesside as it has a free health service and no guns.
Brad Guzan arrived at Middlesbrough in the summer to bring Premier League experience to a new team and challenge existing no.1 Dimi Konstantopoulous who had just enjoyed a stellar promotion season including 21 clean sheets. Guzan himself hadn’t enjoyed the best of seasons having been a much ridiculed part of an awful Aston Villa team that was relegated for the first time in over 30 years for which he could also be fairly attributed some of the blame for some erratic decision making and high school level howlers.
Into this mix then came the legendary former Barcelona stopper Vitor Valdes and Guzan had the uncomfortable tasks of supplanting a local fan favourite from the bench.
Valdes had some fitness issues in the season so and jacked it in completely after relegation was confirmed and manager Aitor Karanka left so Guzan had an interrupted stretch of games to the seasons end. His appearances beforehand had not exactly won over the fans with confidence. His shot-stopping is solid enough and kicking and distribution are good but a weakness in the air led to more flapping than an ostrich trying to get airborne and an unfortunate habit of palming shots directly to the feet of oncoming strikers suggests that the well-known American generosity is well founded.
Teflon Brad was an integral part of a defence that had gone from conceding three or more goals only once in a calendar year to achieving it three times in five matches and was dubbed the human croquet hoop after letting in a hat-trick of goals through his legs against champions Chelsea.
The ultimate indignity was in the final home match against Southampton when after letting in two soft efforts he needlessly raced from his line to bring down an opposing forward gifting them a penalty and the chance to make it 0-3. I’ve never seen a crowd baying for the dismissal of their own keeper before but “Off! Off! Off!” rang around the riverside even more loudly than if a stripper had turned up at half time. The confused referee had mercy and an embarrassed Charlie Austin did him a solid by blasting his effort clear over the bar but Voldemort Brad’s time on Teesside had come to an unfortunate end.
I will be keeping an eye on his progress through my support of Atlanta United and think he will be an adequate keeper at MLS level but if the USNMT want to truly aspire to be a world power in the game then the depth of goalkeeping needs to be expanded and players chosen for reasons other than they played in the bigger leagues of Europe, no matter how badly.