Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan will be the US national team’s No. 1 going into next month’s Copa America Centenario, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has confirmed.
Guzan, 31, has earned 42 caps for the USA since making his international debut in 2006 but has spent most of the past decade biding his time on the bench behind soon-to-be Colorado Rapids keeper Tim Howard.
However, the former Chivas USA stopper was given his first extended run in the side following the 2014 World Cup after Howard opted to take a 12-month sabbatical from international football and fared well in his absence, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s Golden Glove award last summer for the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
Klinsmann had been opting to rotate the pair following Howard’s return last September but has now confirmed that Guzan will be the team’s starter come their Copa America opener against Colombia on 3 June in Santa Clara, California.
Explaining his decision on Sunday upon announcing his final 23-player roster for the tournament, Klinsmann told ussoccer.com: “We go into the tournament with Brad Guzan being the number one. That’s been communicated clearly to Tim and Brad.
“We believe that Brad deserves it. Brad, throughout the last two years, played very consistently and very solid with us. He had a very tough year with Aston Villa, there’s no doubt it, but he knows that.”
Klinsmann’s decision does not come as huge surprise given Howard is coming off a poor final season with Everton which saw him lose his starting spot to Joel Robles during the run-in, but Guzan’s campaign at Villa was just as, if not more, disappointing.
The 31-year-old custodian was benched for Mark Bunn in early January following a string of error-strewn performances, and while he was reinstated the following month, he was later dropped again for the final three games of the season once the club’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed.
Nevertheless, having at least seen more action than Howard over recent months and put in some good performances for the US over the past 18 months, Klinsmann believes the Villa man is the better option to go with at this point in time.
“Tim Howard finished a huge, huge chapter in his career with Everton Football Club. He’s always going to be a legend for Everton, and he did wonderful things with that club," the German added. "But he wasn’t with us for a year after the World Cup, and he also lost his starting spot the last half of the year with Everton, so we think that in that moment Brad has a little bit of an edge and deserves it.
"Having Tim on board, being there to push Brad, to help him, and obviously if something goes wrong he’s always there anyway, is big for us because his presence and his confidence and his leadership is vital for our group.”