Is Brad Guzan the Second-Best American Player?
The Aston Villa goalkeeper is solidly No. 2 on the United States national team goalkeeper depth chart, but there's a strong case to be made that he should be higher on the ASN 100.
BY Noah Davis PostedRanking the ASN 100 every couple months is more art than science. Instead of concrete metrics, the decisions are much more malleable. If you, the ranker, had to win a game tomorrow, would you take player A over player B? That can mean so many different things; it's extremely difficult to determine the answer to that question in a vacuum. We try, and I think we do a pretty good job, but what feels right one month might be different the next. In Brazil, I had an epiphany. (This might have come after a Caipirinha or two.) I decided that after ranking Michael Bradley first for every single ASN 100, I would move Tim Howard into the top spot post-World Cup. This was before the display against Belgium. Heck, it was before the United States took on Portugal. The netminder's play justified my new ranking for him and, sure enough, when the new rankings came out, the other panelists agreed: Howard was on top. So: cool. But I noticed another thing about the July 2014 rankings, namely that Brad Guzan dropped from eighth to 10th. Admittedly, the backup did just that in Brazil, watching the proceedings from the bench and not getting a chance to show off his talents, but that fall surprised me. It's not like he did anything to hurt his standing, right? I had Guzan seventh, which felt about right (obviously; that's why I put him there) until I really started to think about it. If Howard was going to be first, shouldn't his more-than-capable No. 2 be higher on the list? Maybe even No. 2? Multiple writers on this very site have argued that Guzan should in fact start ahead of Howard, and while I disagree with them for reasons I'll get into in a bit, those are still very strong affirmations of his talent. The stats back up the backup's case. According to WhoScored.com, Guzan was the eighth-best goalkeeper in the English Premier League last season, only one tenth of a point behind Tim Howard, who was fourth. That's pretty impressive, especially considering how terrible Guzan's Aston Villa team was. He almost single-handedly (single-gloved?) kept the squad in the EPL, too. For the U.S., Guzan has posted 12 clean sheets in 25 appearances, by far the best percentage of any netminder with as many caps. Simply put, Guzan gets it done. At this point, he's not the No. 1 because he doesn't have the experience controlling the American backline the way Howard does, but that moment is coming (and, I think, sooner rather than later). For the time being, Guzan will watch from the bench while Howard stays between the pipes and ahead of his understudy in the ASN 100. That's only fair. But think about this: Players two through five on the ASN 100 are Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley. If you had to win one game, how many of those men would you take over Guzan assuming Howard was unavailable? Personally, I'd pick the goalkeeper before two, possibly three of them. So perhaps Guzan shouldn't be No. 2 on the ASN 100. But I'm darn sure he deserves to be a lot higher than he is.
July 21, 2014
July 21, 2014