Okay well that might be taking it a little far, but Tim Howard and especially US backup Brad Guzan did some pretty amazing things in Carling Cup* action this week.
Both the American starter and backup saved penalty kicks in their midweek cup games against Premier League opposition. Howard stopped Tottenham Captain (and all around Irish badass) Robbie Keane’s effort from the spot, but couldn’t save Everton from being ousted from the competition. The ensuing scrum after the PK resulted in a goal that Howard could do nothing about. He also gave up an earlier goal that wasn’t his fault. Everton failed to get on the board in the 2-0 defeat.
Meanwhile America’s #2 was busy carving out his place in Aston Villa lore. Brad Guzan who normally sits behind Yanks ’02 World Cup hero Brad Friedel on the Villa bench got the start against Sunderland, and to say he had his shot stopping gloves on would be an understatement. Guzan saved a late penalty from terrifying Trinidadian striker Kenwyne Jones to secure the ninety minute shutout, but he wasn’t done by a long shot. Guzan cruised through two periods of scoreless extra time only to save three of four penalties in the PK shootout and usher his squad into the next round of competition.
Guzan is looking like the next starter for Villa, and as he’s progressing let’s not overlook the fact that the balder he gets, the better he’s getting at his craft. The Reverse Samson-Effect (or the curse of Tony Meola’s Awesome Ponytail) continues to work its magic on US goalkeepers, and that’s a good thing.
*For those of you not familiar with the all-too-foreign way that English soccer works, here’s a dumbed down explanation: Imagine if the NFL crowned its champion solely based upon who had the best record at the end of the season; that’s how the Premier League operates. And then you’ve got two cup competitions which are just tournaments, no draws (ties) allowed. The FA Cup is by far the larger and more prestigious tournament, with the English soccer equivalent of beer league softball teams even getting a shot to compete. The Carling Cup on the other hand (also called the League Cup) only includes teams from England’s top four divisions.
And for your viewing pleasure…