Sunday, July 13, 2008

Getting the lingo down

Brad Guzan impressed me during his first year with Chivas USA, but it wasn't really for his skill as a goalkeeper. After all, though he showed signs of promise, he was getting lit up regularly from every team in the league back in 2005. But the young goalkeeper was committed to his club's cause, sacrificing himself time and again to make saves. I'll never forget the bloody collision with his own teammate, Ryan Suarez, that permanently scarred his face. Brad took the full impact head-on. The damage from from his split lip was evident as he finished the game. Brad was basically swallowing blood down until the final whistle.

I admired his fortitude, but I was more impressed at the squad practices where Brad was clearly developing his Spanish language skills along with his goalkeeping prowess. At the time, Chivas USA was committed to bringing in a south-of-the-border influence. Many of their players were from the Guadalajara system, and their owner, Jorge Vergara, had declared Spanish the working language of the team. The non-Spanish speakers, like Guzan and then-forward Matt Taylor, were enrolled in classes to learn Spanish. I don't know how far along Taylor got before he left the team, but Guzan clearly improved.

He'd hold short conversations with fans and teammates in Spanish, but he was most confident when utilizing the terms of a netminder. "Fuera!" he'd holler at his defenders, so loudly we could hear him in the pressbox. I remember how we laughed together when Brad confessed at his first national team camp that he'd gotten so used to giving directions in Spanish that he'd sometimes slip and yell things in that language to the U.S. players.

I don't think Chivas USA has the Spanish classes for their players any more. Perhaps. Yet there's less need for it now, as most of the team speaks English.

I always thought, though, that Brad's adaptability showed in the way he energetically threw himself into the demands of that first difficult year. England, especially since there's little language adjustment, will probably be easy by comparison.


East River said...

AC, not be all off topic but have you guys been able to check out the Development Academy Finals at the HDC?

A.C. said...

No. I was aware that they were in town. Unfortunately, with no assignment to cover the event, I didn't go.

Anonymous said...

The main thing he'll have to work on is his distribution skills. At least he is balding, the definitive mark of a top class US goalkeeper.


chris said...

Why wouldn't Chivas still have Spanish classes? I thought every team in the league tried to make every player Spanish/English bilingual. I know FCD under Morrow gave players Spanish and English classes, and obviously RSL is doing it as well (see the awesome Javi and Kyle shows on their blog).