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Brad Guzan is back ... with Aston Villa

Bolton Wanderers v Aston Villa - Premier League

BOLTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Brad Guzan of Aston Villa gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa at Reebok Stadium on December 10, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

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And if he’s back with Aston Villa, that means he’s likely back on the bench at Villa Park. Unfortunately.

Brad Guzan will be back in Birmingham this year, the U.S. international signing a new, three-year deal with the English Premier League stalwarts. That means the 27-year-old will join up with teammates in Philadelphia, with Villa’s preseason preparations carrying them across this continent.

It also means a place on the bench may not be a foregone conclusion. At least, that’s what you can infer from length of the deal. Although three years isn’t a remarkable length of time, it’s more than a slot-filling contract. At a minimum, Villa’s committing to Guzan as their sure-fire number two. With Shay Given set to turn 37 during the upcoming Premier League season, Guzan’s getting another prolonged audition to show he can be a Premier League number one.

If new coach Paul Lambert’s to be believed, Guzan will get his change to displace the Republic of Ireland international:

Manager Paul Lambert recently revealed his admiration for Guzan and he expects the American to push Shay Given all the way for the No.1 jersey.

“I’ve watched Brad and some of his games when he was in the team last year and he was excellent,” said the Villa boss.

“I know he’s always had that stigma of being the No.2 behind some really good goalkeepers here.

“But when you come back at the start of the season nobody knows what’s going to happen and it depends on whoever does well.

“Brad played very well the time he was in and maybe he found himself a bit unlucky to be back out.

“The club needs two or three good goalkeepers, so when Shay comes back from the Euros it will be a big bonus and we’ll see what happens.”

Some might be disappointed that Guzan’s not moving to a place he could start (some would have loved to see him return to MLS). Unfortunately, just like NFL quarterbacks and NFL goaltenders, being a goalkeeper is a very peculiar life, one where pursuing playing time often means disproportionate sacrifices to lifestyle, professional environment, and sometimes salary. Perhaps in the NFL and NHL those sacrifices are modest. In world soccer, they can be huge.

Being backup for both club and country can’t make it easier to find new jobs. With only eight Premier League appearances in four years, Guzan forces potential employers to ask “what are we getting here?”

All things considered, Aston Villa seems like the right place for Guzan, particularly considering Paul Lambert’s enthusiasm. At 27 years old, he still has time. In the interim, he can enjoy the opportunity very few professional soccer players get: Playing for a club as big as Aston Villa.