The "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" quips about Brad Guzan's European career can head to the back burner. At long last, Guzan is Aston Villa's No. 1 goalkeeper. With Monday's word that regular starter Shay Given will be out for the next month after tearing his hamstring in the first half of Aston Villa's 1-0 loss to Manchester United on Saturday, the Villans will turn to the 27-year-old Illinois native between the pipes. Guzan looked at ease upon entering against the Red Devils and didn't concede a goal, though he was hardly put to the test in 52 minutes.
"Great credit to Brad for coming in and handling it," Villa manager Alex McLeish said on the club's official website. "He did really well. He was unfazed, and I was delighted with his performance."
The way things have unfolded for Guzan since he left Chivas USA for the bright lights of the Premier League in 2008 certainly hasn't been ideal. After patiently waiting as a backup behind Brad Friedel for three seasons and now Given, Guzan finally has an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.
The challenges will be there for Guzan while he claims all the first-team minutes. During Given's spell on the injured list, Guzan is looking at six more league games -- including tests against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea -- and potentially an FA Cup match as well before he is expected to yield back starting duties.
If Given suffers a setback of any sorts and extends Guzan's reign as top dog any longer, it could set up a potential head-to-head matchup with U.S. No. 1 Tim Howard and Everton on Jan. 14 in what would become a must-see match for all U.S. Soccer fans.
In his time abroad, Guzan has started FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League and UEFA Cup matches, but he has never started a Premier League game (he did start League Championship games for Hull City while on loan last season). If he is ever to truly capitalize on his move to England -- not to mention re-register himself on the national-team radar after Jurgen Klinsmann handed Guzan's long-standing duties as Howard's backup to internationally untested D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid -- now is the time.
"We have to meet these challenges and we will," McLeish said. "We have total faith in Brad who, as I said after the game against Manchester United on Saturday, can be proud of the way he stepped in when Shay had to come off."
While Guzan finds himself in relatively new territory, Clint Dempsey found himself in a familiar spot at Craven Cottage on Monday, scoring the game-winning goal for Fulham late against 10-man Liverpool. Dempsey was quick to pounce on a spilled shot by goalkeeper Pepe Reina to not only deliver three precious points to a team looking to build some momentum after a slow start but also to etch his name in the record books yet again.
With his goal, Dempsey pulled past former U.S. and Fulham great Brian McBride for most goals scored alltime in the Premier League by an American (37), a standard that will continue to rise with every vintage Dempsey performance for as long as he remains in England's top flight.
The recent developments involving Guzan and Dempsey were the most notable ones involving Americans playing abroad, with a consolation prize going to Jozy Altidore. The national team striker found the back of the net again for AZ Alkmaar to keep his strong season rolling along. Here is how that trio and the rest of their countrymen fared over the past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):
The list of MLS-based Americans going overseas to train with European clubs keeps growing by the week. Here's an updated look at where players have either finished training, are currently training or will be training over the coming weeks:
Juan Agudelo, F, New York Red Bulls (Liverpool after a stint in Germany with VfB Stuttgart)
Kyle Beckerman, M, Real Salt Lake (Kaiserslautern)