Saturday, July 12, 2008

Guzan tribute: Top Five Chivas USA moments

Brad Guzan was a fixture at Chivas USA since the club began play in 2005. In many ways, I was lucky enough to have covered Guzan since then.

Watchig Guzan go from a kid right out of college to a seasoned veteran ready for the English Premiership has really been a treat and got me to thinking about Guzan's MLS career.

I interviewed him for the first time on draft day, when he was selected second overall in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, and I was there when the wheels started to come off the club, in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the US national team in March of that year. It was during that game that Guzan's future was set for him as Martin Zuniga was injured, leaving a huge gap in goal that Guzan - ready or not - had to fill.

I watched Guzan in his first MLS win and his 26th and final MLS victory (at least for now). I was there for the good times and the bad. It was tough seeing Guzan as the number two goalkeeper for much of the 2006 season, but it was refreshing to see his attitude. He never wavered in himself and never showed a lack of faith in himself.

Watching Chivas USA from now on will be strange. Brad Guzan and Francisco Mendoza both mean so much to the club, and now only Panchito is left.

Anyway, I thought it would be good to pay a bit of a tribute to Brad Guzan in my own style. I thought about what were the most memorable moments of his career with Chivas USA and ranked what I think were his top five followed by a Guzan's on-the-spot thoughts, gathered by yours truly.

5. Chivas USA 1, LA Galaxy 1; July 10, 2008. Brad Guzan's parting gift: a late save of a shot from Carlos Ruiz. The prolific scorer walked in alone on Guzan deep in injury time and had a chance to seal a comeback victory for the Galaxy. Instead, Guzan turned Ruiz away and the teams settled for a 1-1 draw. In what was Guzan's final game with Chivas USA, the draw helped maintain Chivas USA in a first-place tie with the Galaxy.

Quotable: "As a goalkeeper, you try to help your team preserve either a tie or win. Fortunately I was able to make the save."

4. Chivas USA 1, FC Dallas 0; Sept. 13, 2006. The middle portion of 2006 may have been one of Guzan's toughest times with the Red-and-White. He'd been the starting goalkeeper at the start of the season but lost his job to Preston Burpo, who guided the team into playoff contention. However, Guzan finally reclaimed his starting spot and punctuated his return to the lineup with a shutout win at FC Dallas in his second start after displacing Burpo in the lineup. Guzan had the task of protecting a 1-0 lead with 10 men after Jesus Morales was sent off, and he did just that. A late save off a Carlos Ruiz header sealed the victory.

Quotable: Sadly, came up with no Guzan quotes after this match.

3. Chivas USA 1, Real Salt Lake 0, May 7, 2005. Brad Guzan was tossed into the fray as a 20-year-old rookie. With a makeshift team that was doomed for failure in front of him, Guzan had no choice but to undertake a grueling on-the-job learning process. It wasn't pretty and it certainly wasn't enjoyable but Guzan did his best. It was only fitting that Chivas USA's first-ever win then came with some big saves from the club's first-ever draft choice. Guzan made a pair of late saves that helped preserve the club's first victory, and Guzan's first professional shutout.

Quotable: "I knew when I decided to leave school that I could do this, that I could play at the next level. It was just a matter of time and being comfortable and being confident."

2. Chivas USA 0, Houston Dynamo 0; Oct. 20, 2007. Brad Guzan was not called on much in the 2007 regular-season finale. In fact, he had to make only one save during this match. But the shutout punctuated Guzan's finest season to date and more importantly it helped Chivas USA clinch the Western Conference title less than two years after undergoing a major facelift. Guzan's presence in goal helped the club rise from playoff contender to cup contender as he walked away with MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors several weeks later.

Quotable: "Right now, this feels great. From all the troubles we've come from, from all the guys who have come through this locker room, it's an unbelievable feeling right now."

1. Chivas USA 2, Houston Dynamo 1; Oct. 22, 2006, Western Conference semifinal. In Chivas USA's first-ever playoff game, it was fittingly Guzan who played a big role in the game. After goals from Ante Razov and Francisco Palencia put Chivas USA ahead 2-1, Houston won a late penalty kick when Jason Hernandez was whistled for a foul inside the penalty area. Dwayne De Rosario stepped to the penalty spot and ripped a shot on goal but Guzan guessed correctly and turned De Rosario away.

Quotable: "It was just one of those things that you just go with your gut feeling because players are able to change it up all the time so you just go with it... It felt good to know that the adversity I've been through this year and last year. It was good to be able to contribute to a big win for us."


soyjimador said...

when i read the title to this topic, i immediately thought of that pk save during the houston playoff game. good call. it runs through my mind to this day.

big ups, brad.

Anonymous said...

Guzan, eres grande. Nunca te olvides de tus Chivas!

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