Tim or Brad. Brad or Tim. Especially with Brad Guzan being as much on fire as Joe Hart was during the 2011-2012 Premier League campaign, the most recent question for USMNT fans is, ‘Who’s your number one goalkeeper?’
Some people believe Brad Guzan should take over Tim Howard’s spot as numero uno keeper because of the exceptional form of the Villan. Yet, others oddly enough, vehemently deny the increasing talent of the Aston Villa goalie and pin the team’s shaky start to the 2013-2014 Premier League season on the American rather than the team as a whole (someone explain to me how it’s all Guzan’s fault, please…) (Also, it should be noted that Guzan’s play at the end of the 2012-2013 season is what kept Aston Villa from being relegated).
Most recently, Guzan displayed his skill during the Aston Villa game against Norwich City, in which the Canaries lost 1-nil mostly in part because of Guzan’s form in saving a penalty kick and a 90th minute – incredible – diving save.
However solid Guzan has been, Howard keeps coming back with the punches. Not to be outdone by the handiwork of the Villa keeper, the bearded man in blue – during a match between Aston Villa and Everton – came up with a huge penalty save against striker, Christian Benteke. And of course afterward, the Jersey native discount double-checked his – and Everton’s – way to an Everton clean sheet win. (For the GIF, click Howard PK save.)
Not only have Guzan and Howard been exceptional for club and country in the past few years, the dark horse – or second on the bench (at least for the USMNT) – goalkeeper has been showing off in MLS with spectacular saves. Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, as steady as ever, could easily take over if Howard and Guzan fall ill when in a CONCACAF nation, and most people – me included – would be fine with Rimando stepping up. Here’s a recent double save Rimando made during a Portland vs. RSL match.
Up and coming keepers, who, although they are more near the bottom rung, they could start moving their way up the USMNT roster ladder, probably after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Bill Hamid, who plays for DC United, has been off and on during his career (mind you, he is only 22 years old), but this season he’s had his head on straight most of the time. While playing against Columbus earlier, Hamid had two great successive saves. Here’s a clip. Because of Hamid’s young age and previous lack of experience, the DC United keeper hasn’t been the most confident, but if he keeps receiving call ups to USMNT camps, friendly’s, and to important (but not as important as WCQ) games such as Gold Cups, then Hamid’s stock will keep rising.
Sean Johnson, the 24-year old goalkeeper for MLS’s Chicago Fire, has been quite decent – as of late. During a home game against Toronto FC, Johnson showed off his nice display of great goalkeeping. With Chicago Fire out of the 2013 MLS Cup playoffs, this coming offseason will be great for Johnson to hone his skills concerning cutting off the angles from approaching strikers and set piece delivery arrangement. It’ll be a good 2014 season for the young goalkeeper.
Cody Cropper, who resides and plays for Southampton in England, has somewhat flown under the radar as an up and coming US goalkeeper. This summer, US Soccer did a spotlight on the Yank, and from the sounds of it, he has an eye for the flow and strategy of the game – always something a goalie needs.
When watching Cropper work, as seen in the following clip from the U-20 FIFA World Cup, you can see that he his potential is ripping at the seams and his talent and skill will come spilling out as he continues to progress at training and matches in England. His willingness to step off his line is admirable, yet risky at times. Here is Cropper in action: (Not related to Cropper, but did your jaw drop when Luis Gil hit that beauty of a goal for the US, or was that just me?)
Regardless of age or form, these goalkeepers have shown to be able to represent the Stars and Stripes with plaudits and pride. And like the days of yore when Friedel and Keller were playing – and competing for the top spot – on the USMNT, it looks like Guzan and Howard continue on this path, although the Everton man currently is the closest to the cigar. And to add to the always shining light of goalies in the US camp, once the 2018 World Cup rolls around, considering who is in the next crop of goalkeepers – Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, and Cody Cropper – for the USMNT, the future is looking bright.