Guzan v Howard: Battle of the Balds / by Bill Reno

By Bill Reno (@letsallsoccer)

Classic USMNT. While the rest of our team is struggling to keep its head above water, we’re overflowing with bald talent at goalkeeper. It’s one position we haven’t had a worry about since before Jimmy Douglas’ first World Cup shutout in 1930 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Brad Guzan and Tim Howard fill the depth chart for the Americans and the question of “Who should start?” is as unanswered as a year ago.

Unlike Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel Guzan and Howard seem to actually enjoy playing with each other. There’s nothing wrong with love and even though we’re all glad the animosity between the goalkeepers isn’t DEFCON 5, we’re still not sure who should be in net. Klinsmann has stated multiple times that Guzan is his number one moving forward but after a four goal outing against Brazil for Guzan, Howard may have found his foot in the door.

The case for Tim Howard

Undoubtedly fans feel more comfortable with Howard. With his cat-like reflexes and clutch saves, it’s understandable why people side with Howard over Guzan. We know what to expect from him and it’s only been a little over a year since his Great Wall of Belgium performance (copyright pending) and he’s befuddled Mexico already once in his career. Surely he has another performance up his sleeve? Mechanics aside, if he’s good enough for sixth place Everton, he should still be good enough for the USMNT.

The case for Brad Guzan

For all the disappointment surrounding the Gold Cup, Guzan actually played quite well, earning the Golden Gloves Award for the tournament despite not even reaching the final. Guzan will once again look to steady the ship for Aston Villa, being a large reason why they weren’t relegated from the Premier League last season. Guzan has had his own Guz-standing performance against Mexico last World Cup Qualifying. In the middle of his prime, Guzan will surely be in net for the US during the 2018 World Cup. So if he’s the expected goalkeeper for next World Cup, he might as well be in goal for the most important match in 2015.

Battle of the Balds

Who should start against Mexico? Yes, Howard did take his sabbatical this past year from the USMNT but both goalkeepers are keeping sharp with their respective EPL clubs. It’s not like Howard hasn’t been working on getting back to the number one spot, which he has stated many times is his target. But when it comes down to consistency and knowing what you can expect from the goalkeeper, Guzan is the choice. He’s not a flashy or as popular as Howard, but he’s not going to give up simple goals when trying to make a heroic save. For an already shaky backline, Guzan makes the most sense in goal.

To be fair, a change in net doesn’t come without precedent for the US. This is eerily similar to the Hope Solo v Briana Scurry situation in 2007. USWNT Head Coach Greg Ryan went with experience (Scurry) over the hot hand (Solo) ahead of the World Cup semifinal match and, well… it didn’t work out so well. And for Klinsmann, who’s known for tinkering with the lineup, a surprising last-minute switch won’t be so surprising.

MLS GOTY Power Rankings

Keeper Team Min SOG GA xGA G - xG
Bill Hamid DCU 1816 108 21 28.99 -7.99
Nick Rimando RSL 1828 78 20 27.80 -7.80
Stefan Frei SEA 2427 129 29 34.42 -5.42
David Ousted VAN 2691 113 31 36.30 -5.30
Tim Melia SKC 1627 83 23 25.74 -2.74
Jeff Attinella RSL 771 58 20 22.04 -2.04
Sean Johnson CHI 1905 90 31 33.02 -2.02
Andrew Dykstra DCU 828 57 16 17.98 -1.98
Chris Konopka TOR 1521 76 23 24.58 -1.58
Andre Blake PHI 190 10 1 2.48 -1.48
Jesse Gonzalez FCD 484 23 5 6.48 -1.48
David Bingham SJ 2781 130 35 36.01 -1.01
Clinton Irwin COL 2594 111 32 32.83 -0.83
Jaime Penedo LA 1337 69 19 19.75 -0.75
Troy Perkins SEA 337 15 3 3.63 -0.63
Eric Kronberg MTL 289 11 5 5.44 -0.44
Donovan Ricketts LA 1626 65 22 22.07 -0.07
Travis Worra DCU 39 1 0 0.04 -0.04
Ryan Meara NYC 95 7 1 1.03 -0.03
Jon Busch CHI 766 34 12 11.90 0.10
Bobby Shuttleworth NE 2473 98 35 34.82 0.18
Joe Willis HOU 190 4 2 1.75 0.25
Rais Mbolhi PHI 486 19 9 8.41 0.59
Tyler Deric HOU 2497 110 35 34.37 0.63
Brad Knighton NE 288 15 6 5.23 0.77
Andrew Weber POR 93 7 3 2.18 0.82
Evan Bush MTL 2091 112 33 32.03 0.97
Josh Saunders NYC 2775 158 49 47.76 1.24
Jon Kempin SKC 189 8 4 2.63 1.37
Brian Sylvestre PHI 948 50 19 17.37 1.63
Chris Seitz FCD 672 27 10 8.16 1.84
Luis Robles NYRB 2567 101 32 30.07 1.93
Dan Kennedy FCD 1430 49 19 16.97 2.03
John McCarthy PHI 1051 40 18 15.86 2.14
Brian Rowe LA 665 22 9 6.76 2.24
Tally Hall ORL 1809 103 36 33.34 2.66
Luis Marin SKC 771 30 11 8.04 2.96
Adam Kwarasey POR 2584 98 31 27.75 3.25
Steve Clark CLB 2671 143 49 43.40 5.60
Joe Bendik TOR 1148 66 25 19.31 5.69
*Does not include own goals.

Down to the Final Five, as we always say. 

David Ousted - The man is consistent as a Danish cookie, although with more Vitamin C. (Danish cookies are not a significant source of Vitamin C.)

Stefan Frei - Three weeks in a row of winning the Save of the Week makes the gap behind Ousted a little smaller.

Bill Hamid - It really comes down to health for Hamid. If he finishes strong, playing every minute, I could see him stealing the award from Ousted. If some want him to start over Guzan/Howard, it’s easy to see the media give him a generous boost in the voting.

Nick Rimando - Can you be goalkeeper of the year if your team doesn’t make the playoffs? Maybe. What if they end up last place in their conference? A little harder to prove you deserve the award.

Bobby Shuttleworth - It’s a bit of a toss up between him, Deric, and Robles but I’m going with the goalie who hasn’t given up a goal since August 2nd gets the nod.