Brad Guzan believes Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Honduras could be a turning point for this young USMNT squad.
There has been plenty of excitement surrounding this up and coming group, with fans believing the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson are not only good enough to return the United States to the World Cup, but also go deep into next year’s tournament in Qatar.
But there’s also been a lot of frustration in the recent camp with the US drawing their first two qualifiers against El Salvador (0-0) and Canada (1-1) while key midfielder Weston McKennie was sent home after the first game for violating team protocol.
The USMNT finally got their qualification campaign going on Wednesday, scoring four second-half goals to overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit down in Honduras. Teenager Ricardo Pepi grabbed a goal and two assists on his debut, while Aaronson, Antonee Robinson and Sebastian Lletget also found the net in would could prove to be a crucial result.
Guzan has been in and around the national team picture since 2006 and has experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum. The Atlanta United goalkeeper has been to World Cups and won Gold Cups, but also missed out on qualification for tournaments and lost in big finals.
“When you look at these three games, you instantly think it looked like a group that didn’t have a lot of qualifying experience,” Guzan told MLSsoccer.com.
“Last night [Wednesday] was a massive result. Watching that game, you have a sense of pride and jubilation. There was a lot of criticism and talk from the outside. Knowing most if not all of the guys and the coaching staff, to see the result, it’s massive. You look at the table now, you can go into the October window now with confidence, with more experience.
“For those guys to stand up in that moment with all the talk on the outside…I’m super happy for them.”
For Guzan, attention now returns to searching for Atlanta United’s first win under new manager Gonzalo Pineda.
The Five Stripes lost 2-0 at home to Nashville SC in the Mexican’s first game in charge following a successful interim spell under Rob Valentino. But after an international break to work on the training ground, they’ll get the chance to put things right as they host rivals Orlando City on Friday.
Guzan, who turned 37 on Thursday, has praised the simplistic approach Pineda has employed so far, with a clear focus on enjoyment following the troubled tenure of Gabriel Heinze.
“He’s come in and instantly has tried to create a positive vibe within the group,” Guzan said. “In terms of how we go about our daily activities, training, preparation for games. Just not trying to overcomplicate responsibilities for players. With our group, he’s been able to make progress in those areas which translates onto the field.”
The former Aston Villa goalkeeper added: “It can be extremely beneficial, especially if you have a young group. It was no secret how things were before in terms of what’s being asked of the group. To simplify things and make it clear what’s being asked of individuals, it makes things a lot easier to understand and ultimately accomplish.”