- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Brad Guzan has been in this position before.

A few times, too.

So sitting behind U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard and waiting patiently for a chance to play is nothing new for the 29-year-old Illinois native. But that doesn’t mean Guzan is content with his second-string spot on the U.S. national team.

“It’s not ideal, obviously, when you’re not playing,” Guzan said Thursday as the Americans continued preparations for their World Cup send-off series finale against Nigeria. “Everyone wants to play. It’s probably a little bit more of a difficult situation for a goalkeeper just because we know only one of us can play.

“It becomes a bit tricky, but at the same time, you always have to be prepared because you get judged on your performance. And if you get called into a game in the fifth minute or the 95th minute, you have to be ready to step in and do a job.”

Guzan has spent more than his fair share in someone’s shadow.

He was a backup for most of four seasons (2008-12) for Aston Villa in the English Premier League, a sometimes frustrating experience that often tested his perseverance. Still, he stayed positive while learning behind fellow American Brad Friedel.

He made one league appearance in his first three years with Villa. He experienced some success by leading Villa to the League Cup final against Manchester United in 2010 only to be replaced by Friedel in the final.

Guzan was loaned to Hull City the following year and played in the second-tier League Championship for three months before returning to Hull’s bench for the final month of the season. When Friedel left for Tottenham after the 2011 season, Guzan figured he would get a promotion.

It didn’t happen. Villa signed veteran keeper Shay Given.

Guzan remained a backup. He filled in capably when Given was sidelined a month by an injury, but once Given was healthy, Guzan returned to the bench. Frustrated, Guzan considered leaving Villa. He ultimately decided to stay, re-signing with the club and finally got the starting job.

It may have the best decision of his career.

“It’s always nice when you’re linked with other teams, but I’ve been very fortunate to be at a club like Aston Villa for so long,” said Guzan, whose latest contract keeps him there through 2017. “Not many players stick with one club for as long as I have. Granted, I didn’t play too much the first four years. But I feel like now is my time to give back to them.”

Guzan has since blossomed into one of the best netminders in the Premier League, starting nearly every game the last two seasons.

And he probably could start for a number of other World Cup teams.

Story Continues →