- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

SEVILLE, Spain | Brad Guzan is patiently waiting for the chance to earn the No. 1 goalie spot on Premier League club Aston Villa.

The 24-year-old American is in no hurry.

Guzan is being mentored at Villa by countryman Brad Friedel, considered one the best goalies in the English Premier League. The 38-year-old Friedel, now in the twilight of his career, holds the record for consecutive games played in the Premiership and still is adding to the streak.

“He is a great professional, and I just try to pick his brain and listen to all the experience he has had throughout his career,” said Guzan, whose team is in Malaga, Spain, for the Peace Cup. “He has been around for a while, so I’ve got a lot of advice from him.”

Guzan joined the Birmingham, England-based Villa in a $1.2 million move a year ago after three seasons and 79 matches with Chivas USA of Major League Soccer. The South Carolina star was the first player drafted by the expansion team in 2005 and earned MLS goalie of the year honors in 2007.

Friedel played in all 38 league games for Villa last year, but Guzan was called upon when Friedel was red-carded against Liverpool - an ejection that later was rescinded. Villa trailed 4-0 when Guzan entered the game.

“It was certainly something to look back on, but I wished my Premier League debut had been under different circumstances,” Guzan said.

The Evergreen Park, Ill., native said playing in England is a world away from MLS.

“The environment and passion that’s created through the media, the fans, the atmosphere in the stadiums - there’s such a massive difference,” Guzan said. “The speed of the game is so quick compared to MLS due to the quality of players, which makes it one of the top leagues in the world, if not the best.

“I think MLS is growing, but it has a way to go to be compared to any of the top leagues in the world.”

Guzan says the 12-team Peace Cup has been good for Villa, even though the results haven’t gone its way.

Guzan started in the nets as Villa bounced back with a 3-1 win over Mexican club Atlante on Wednesday night to advance to semifinals, where it will face FC Porto on Friday. Guzan made two key big saves in the game, while American Eric Lichaj assisted on Villa’s second goal.

The tournament is sponsored by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation, a corporate sister of The Washington Times.

“Anytime you get affiliated with a big-time tournament with big teams, it’s going to help you prepare for the season ahead,” Guzan said. “The climate conditions here have been a little warm, but that will help us in terms of getting fit quicker. We understand it’s a preseason event, and we have a long year ahead of us.”

Guzan played a key role in the U.S. national team’s success at the Confederations Cup in June. He earned a needed shutout against Egypt that helped the U.S. squad reach the semifinals.

“To come on the field for a game like that when our backs were against the wall, and to get a 3-0 result to push us into the semifinal was fantastic,” said Guzan, who backs up Tim Howard on the U.S. team.

For now, Guzan remains the understudy to one of the finest in the game.

“When you have someone of Brad’s caliber in front of you, it’s so much more difficult to get in there,” Guzan said. “But when I get my chance, I will push myself and run with it.”

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