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Big chance ahead for Brad Guzan (and for U.S. national team)

Brad Guzan ... so little action lately, I had to dip back in the Hull City days to find a decent photo of the man.
Brad Guzan ... so little action lately, I had to dip back in the Hull City days to find a decent photo of the man.

Brad Guzan is getting a big, fat, juicy chance to show he can be a man of the moment, a talent worthy of starting consideration in one of the world’s top leagues.

Guzan is Aston Villa’s backup goalkeeper. And even if you wouldn’t know Aston Villa from one of James Bond’s Aston Martins, you should care about how Guzan performs. You should, that is, if you give one red-white-and-blue hoot about the United States national team.

The background: Aston Villa trusty starter Shay Given has a hamstring tear won’t be manning the gloves around Villa Park for a month or so. As such … "Paging Mr. Guzan. "

Villa is smack in the middle of the Premier League table, but closer to the bottom than to the top. And the side’s December schedule is a sharpened dagger aimed squarely at the heart of the Claret and Blue’s season. Ahead are tests against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, in addition to matches that demand point against Stoke and Bolton. You can read more about the December crucible here at 7500 to Holte, a terrific Villa blog.

As for Guzan, here stands a primo chance to show he has the stuff, that he won’t melt beneath the bright lights.

Guzan has the physical tools. Always has. He was wobbly for a year at Chivas USA, where he started as a rookie in 2005. But by 2007 he was among Major League Soccer’s top keepers; I remember thinking that year how Guzan was so influential in a decent Chivas USA campaign that could have look drastically different but for his big performances. Guzan left for Villa in the summer of 2008.

Here’s why all this is so important for the national team; I can sum it up in about eight words:

"Who is Tim Howard’s backup in U.S. goal?"

Yes, Bill Hamid has been in Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent U.S. camps. So has German-American backstopper David Yelldell. Ditto for Marcus Hahnemann.

No disrespect, but you see anybody there that you’re willing to pin World Cup qualification hopes on?

Tim Howard is so far and away the U.S. No. 1 that we sometimes fail to consider the importance of a solid Plan B in goal. No one wants to think about it, but injuries do happen.

Hamid is so far from being ready that he can’t really be considered anything but a player Klinsmann brings in for future seasoning. Hahnemann was always a solid backup, but he’s not playing these days, so he’s certainly not sharp. Same for Yelldell, a backup at Bayer Leverkusen who has yet to make a first-team appearance this year.

Who else? There are solid goalkeepers around MLS, of course. Kevin Hartman, Jon Busch, Nick Rimando and others. But they all have a limitation or two, that little chink in otherwise sturdy armor, which is why they’ve never established more solid footing in the national team order.

Well, here’s a chance to build some U.S. depth. Guzan can’t be considered a top-choice backup until he shows he can get it done over a stretch of games, at least.

With World Cup qualification bearing down (it starts in June), we’ll know in a month if "find a solid backup behind Howard" can be scratched off Klinsi’s to-do list.