Postcard from Europe: Guzan set for Villa return
AMSTERDAM – With his third and final Hull City loan stint ending after Saturday's trip to Watford, Brad Guzan is set to return to parent club Aston Villa on a guessing game.
The 26-year-old Illinois native will have 16 Championship starts for the Tigers under his belt in the allotted 93-day limit for short loans by the time he pulls into Villa Park next week. When the netminder arrived, Hull were in 16th place; a win over Watford could see them up to as high at eighth when he departs.
Guzan has notched 77 saves in his 15 Hull games to date, winning six and drawing five. And yet, the netminder admits there's been little feedback on his working furlough from the Aston Villa staff.
"When I go back, we'll see what happens," Guzan told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Hull's training ground. "Hopefully, they've taken notice of what I've been doing. I've spoken to the goalkeeping coach and I went there when the last loan ended. It was rather quick. I was only there a few days and they were getting ready for the FA Cup match with Manchester City."
Regardless of how Aston Villa eventually remark upon his loan performance, count the American as largely satisfied with his time away from Villa Park.
"It's been an opportunity to play first-team football in a very good league at a high level, and play consistently," he said. "It's been great."
After playing just two Europa League matches over the 2010 half of the season, he says he feels much sharper walking the line this year.
"As much as you want to recreate situations in training and train and train and train, you cannot recreate all the little things that games provide for players, especially for goalkeepers," Guzan said.
While things have gone well for the American at Hull, Aston Villa remain stuck in their first serious struggle against relegation in five years. The club finished sixth in the Premier League in each of Guzan's first two seasons and sent much of the first third of this campaign near that rung. However, they dropped five of the last six matches in which Guzan deputized for countryman Brad Friedel before riding the rails over to Hull.
With but seven games remaining, Villa are two spots and two points above the trap door. They have not fallen through as a club since 1987, and Guzan has a hard time even believing a squad he knows well is in this predicament.
"There's a great group of guys over there," he insisted. "I know they're all fighting for results. Hopefully, they can find a way out and make sure we're not coming into the last games of the season in a must-win situation. I think this is a huge club and to find it where it is in the table is quite shocking, not only to myself but to a lot of people around the country."
Guzan notes this with only a hint of embarrassment at the facts, likely in part because he seems so confident of the team's capability of earning Premiership survival before anything gets truly dire. At the same time, he is clearly unsure of how a potential Aston Villa plunge will even relate to him next season.
He sees the papers. He sees Villa often linked with a name starting 'keeper and, now, he sees they are talking with Friedel about an extension. Guzan has apparently decided not to let it bother him so much, but he is coolly aware of the situation.
"I have one year left on my contract," he said plainly. "The next few weeks after I get back, we'll know more. I don't know their plan."
Having been reminded what it was like to have regular games for the first time since his Chivas USA days, Guzan has one true aim for next season: Be "the man" somewhere.
"When you've had a taste of it, like I have had here, you want it to keep going," he said. "You want more. You're hungry for it. It's all about playing. I'd love to be the No. 1 at Aston Villa and to prove I can play at a club like Aston Villa. Having said that, if they say they want to go another direction and I'm not in their future plans, then that's football. You have to move on."
Such matters are for next week, though. For now, Guzan has a Hornets swarm at Vicarage Road to worry about. He is the inked name on the lineup card for a big game. Even if he can't be around if Hull continue rallying their season into the promotion playoffs, he can still provide every possible assistance in lowering the seven-point deficit they face in getting there.
"For me to be able to come in and help the team go on a run and push for the playoffs has not only been good for me, it's been good for the club," he said.
He will be quite happy with his Hull time regardless of Saturday's outcome and any possible missed playoff thrills.
"When you're helping a team be successful, you always want to be there for the best part, which is obviously making the playoffs," he said. "However, knowing the situation before I started, I knew that wasn't going to be a possibility. When my time comes to an end, I wish them all the best."