Since joining Aston Villa in 2008, Brad Guzan's transition from being a regular for Chivas USA in MLS to being taken under fellow compatriot Brad Friedel's wing in his first three years yielded few first team appearances in Birmingham.
When Friedel left the West Midlands for North London, however, the doors opened for Guzan. Having played second fiddle to Shay Given during the 2011-12 season, the 30-year-old still cobbled together seven appearances. From there, Guzan has established himself as Villa's No. 1, featuring in all but two league matches between 2012 and 2014.
Another praiseworthy enterprise throughout the 2014-2015 Barclays Premier League campaign eventually saw the American lose his place as Tim Sherwood's first-choice goalkeeper, however, as Given deputized for the remaining four matches along with a start in the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal on May 30.
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Despite some of the uncertainty surrounding his role for the Villans, Guzan - born in Evergreen Park and raised in Homer Glen - is turning his attention to international duty with the U.S. national team. Under the guidance of veteran Tim Howard - amid a one-year sabbatical - Guzan, a one-time central midfielder at Providence Catholic High School, is now primed to claim the No. 1 jersey as Jurgen Klinsmann's side begins its CONCACAF Gold Cup defense in July.
"It's definitely going to be different, but I'm excited for the challenge," he said. "Being in from the start, it's going to be an exciting tournament and an exciting month for us. Hopefully we finish it with a championship."
Prior to the Men in Red's 1-0 defeat to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United, Guzan dropped by the Pregame Live set on CSN to chat with Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan about all things soccer. A former member of the Chicago Fire Reserves, Guzan reflected on his time as an up-and-comer, lauding Major League Soccer's commitment to developing talent and burgeoning into a well-respected league.
"It's huge," he added. "Giving opportunities to kids to come through the ranks, but then have the opportunities with the first team is such a huge part of soccer, not only with MLS, but with the growing of the sport as well.
"The league has grown by leaps and bounds. The view of the league - from players, coaches and fans (in Europe) - is that it's getting bigger; it's getting better, not just because the David Beckhams of the world that came here and made a name for themselves. It's the standard of the league that's gone up, and it's starting to interest so many players over there."
After forgoing the rest of his college years at the University of South Carolina, Guzan went on to sign a Generation Adidas contract with MLS, and was subsequently picked by the now defunct Chivas USA in the 2005 SuperDraft. Ten years later, and with the league's popularity swelling, Guzan hasn't yet ruled out a return stateside.
"I've always said I want to finish my career playing in MLS," he said. "From the day I left to where it is now, it's something that I want to come back to. When that day is, I don't know. But at the moment, I'm enjoying my soccer over in England."
Check out what else Guzan had to say in the video above.