Last season, the Seattle Sounders made a huge splash in the July transfer window landing the missing piece of their midfield in Nicolas Lodeiro.
The skillful Argentine powered the Sounders to the title in 2016 and the case can already be made that ex-Middlesbrough and Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan is the top mid-year transfer in 2017.
The U.S. No.2 ‘keeper has made an immediate impact for expansion side Atlanta United in the nets and the new boys in the league look poised to make a playoff run this season.
No stranger to MLS
Guzan is no stranger to MLS having patrolled the penalty box for now-defunct Chivas USA from 2005-2008 making over 75 appearances. The MLS that Guzan left for English football has a drastically different landscape in 2017 and the progress of the league as well as the growth of Guzan’s game have been on parallel upward trajectories until their reunion this past July.
The Five Stripes began the season with Atlanta native Alec Kann in the nets as he was claimed from Sporting Kansas City in the expansion draft. The Furman University product played some valuable minutes over the first three months of the season up until a leg injury ruled him out of service for the July 4 match versus the Earthquakes.
Reserve goalkeeper Kyle Reynish earned the Independence Day win in the 4-2 victory over the ‘Quakes and then Guzan stepped between the pipes for the first time at Orlando City in mid-July. It has been Guzan’s gig ever since.
Living up to the hype
Dubbed “Mr. Clean Sheet” with a game and supporter’s tifo to match, Guzan has lived up to the hype and brought a calm and confidence to an Atlanta defensive unit that had struggled to find this level of cohesion under Kann.
In Guzan’s seven games in charge he has posted a 3-1-3 record allowing just 5 goals while posting a 0.71 goals against average including 3 clean sheets. Beyond the results and the numbers, it has been the way he commands the United penalty area that has been most impressive.
From game one, it was Guzan barking out orders and Atlanta players responding. Set pieces had haunted Atlanta early in the season but the Guzan influence has made that a distant memory as the Five Stripes now have a sturdy defensive balance to their incredible attacking prowess.
Managing the individual moments in the game and dictating the match tempo are two other strong suits that Guzan has added to his frequent highlight reel saves.
Atlanta’s missing piece?
So as the MLS regular season begins to wind down over the next few weeks it will be “Mr. Clean Sheet” Brad Guzan making the difference in the Atlanta United nets as he plays his part in the Five Stripes march into the 2017 playoffs.
Atlanta found the missing piece of their playoff puzzle with Guzan.
Written by Forrest Wimberly
Follow Forrest on Twitter @ForrestWsoccer
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