February 12, 2015 - accent chair
There were hundreds of Villa fans using onto a pitch, fluttering their claret-and-blue scarves and flags. As we done my approach to a locker room, we glanced behind and saw grown group jumping adult and down and hugging and crying. The whole stadium, 40,000 people, was singing a strain in unison:
“Que sera sera,
Whatever will be will be,
We’re going to Wem-bel-ey,
Que sera sera …”
The sound was this outrageous sepulchral roar. It done a hair on a behind of my neck mount up. When we was walking down a stairs into a tunnel, it finally sunk in.
Oh my god. I’m going to Wembley. We’re going to play Manchester United or Manchester City in a League Cup Final.
In a locker room, my teammates were all jumping around and screaming “Wembley, mate! Wembley!” And I’m thinking, I’m only a child from Illinois. Is this unequivocally happening? This is mental.
Let’s behind adult for a second. we know Americans had World Cup heat final summer, though we competence not be as informed with where we manipulate my trade. In a English Premier League, there’s a knockout contest called a League Cup. If we win, we get a honour of personification in a Europa League, not to discuss a excellence of carrying your name sung in pubs for a rest of your life. 92 teams from all over England and Wales enter a competition. Because a contest runs alongside a normal Premier League campaign, managers customarily play a No. 2 screw in a competition.
In 2010, we was a fill-in during Villa behind my associate American and associate unapproachable bald male Brad Friedel, so we had played in all of a League Cup matches. In a “Sweet 16” opposite Sunderland, we stopped 4 chastisement kicks, and a visiting fans, who had ridden 200 miles on buses to support us on a soppy Tuesday night, were chanting “Goo-zan! Goo-zan!” and “USA! USA!” with that good aged Brummie accent.
We hadn’t won a Cup given 1996, so as we progressed by a stages, a fad in a city was removing crazy. In America, we can go to a grocery store though anyone even seeing me. In England, we can frequency go out to cooking with my mother though someone entrance adult and possibly observant “Guz, can we get a picture?” (if they’re a Villa fan) or “Toss off, Guzan!” (if they’re a Birmingham City fan). They call Birmingham a “second city,” though it can feel impossibly tiny when you’re a footballer. It’s a hard-working, blue-collar town, and a passions run intensely high. Our stadiums are distant by only 3 miles. So consider of a Cubs and White Sox, and afterwards greaten those passions by 10. Cubs and Sox fans can get a splash together before a game. If we travel into a Birmingham City pub with a Villa shirt on, it’s not going to be a considerate drink. It’s all going to flog off.
So when we won that semi-final, it was derangement for a Villa side of a city. Around 30,000 of a fans were going to make a event from Birmingham to London’s Wembley Stadium for a final. After a semi, we immediately called my family and told them that we was drifting them in. They had never seen me play a compare in England, and they only had to be there.
Then something happened that substantially tangible my career. In a week heading adult to a final, we started to hear rumblings in training that there was doubt about that screw would play in a final. This was generally tough since Brad Friedel and we were tighten on and off a pitch, and now we were radically competing to play in one of a biggest games of a careers.
At a hotel on a day before a game, my teammates were entrance adult to me saying, “Hey, are we personification or is Frieds playing?” we had no idea. Our manager during a time, Martin O’Neill, customarily didn’t announce a starting lineup until an hour before kickoff. If you’re an outfield player, that’s not unequivocally a large understanding since we customarily have a good thought if you’re personification or not formed on training. If you’re a keeper, we have no idea.
I talked to Brad that morning and he was like, “Honestly Guz, we don’t know what’s going to happen. The oldster hasn’t pronounced anything to me.”
At a hotel for pre-match preparation, we went by video of fortifying giveaway kicks and corners and there was no spirit of a decision. We took a train to Wembley, and still we had no idea. On one hand, I’m meditative about my family watchful to see my play during a stadium. On a other hand, I’m perplexing to go by all my visualizations of a diversion — what’s Wayne Rooney going to do if he gets a round on a corner of a box? Where is large Nemanja Vidic going to be on corners?
The mental partial of credentials in a Premier League is positively crucial, since a diversion is so impossibly fast. When we started my career in a MLS, we schooled that we had to be dual stairs forward of a ball. In a Premier League, we have to be 4 stairs ahead. That’s by no means a hit on a MLS. It’s a immature joining that has done good strides. But we notice a disproportion a impulse we step onto a training representation in England. It’s not only a tip players who are pinging a round around and fixation a lofted pass on a dime, it’s a haven patrol players, too.
Being an American over here, a fun is that I’m naturally always shouting. “Just be quiet, Guz! Relax!”
If you’re not 100 percent laser focused, world-class players will confuse you. But that’s not enough. As a goalkeeper — either you’re a fill-in or a starter — it’s your pursuit to make certain that your whole group is 100 percent focused before we travel out by that tunnel. Being an American over here, a fun is that I’m naturally always shouting. “Just be quiet, Guz! Relax!” When you’re sitting there and we can hear a relate of 90,000 people chanting and stomping, it can be easy to remove your nerve.
A screw has to be means to take authority in a locker room and remind defenders about a tendencies of players: “Force him to his left foot! Follow in shots and transparent rebounds, boys!” So that’s what Brad and we did as we waited to hear a fate. At one indicate we only kind of looked during any other and nodded like, “OK, let’s do this.”
Finally, an partner came into a room.
“Hey Guz, manager wants to see we in his office,” he pronounced to me.
The impulse we sat down in a chair, we knew we wasn’t going to play.
Our manager Martin O’Neill was a good man. He had a tough job. There were 30,000 Villa fans watchful in that track for one of a biggest matches in dual decades.
“Honestly, this is one of a hardest decisions of my life,” he said. “I’m going with experience. I’m sorry, Guz.”
Now, mind you, this is an hour before a final. My family was in a stands watchful to see me play a biggest diversion of my career. we had changed to Birmingham with my mother — no friends, no family — to be a back-up. we knew a deal. But I’d also gotten a group to this point. There were dual ways to react.
- Blow a gasket, charge into a locker room and chuck a tantrum.
- Be a professional.
I chose a second option. “Gaffer, listen, we don’t unequivocally know what to say,” we told Martin. “I don’t determine with it, though we honour it. You’re a boss.”
I took a breath, went behind into a locker room and did all in my energy to make certain a group was ready. we walked out onto a representation with 90,000 people singing during a tip of their lungs, and we waved to my family. Then we sat on a dais and kept revelation myself, “Just be ready.”
We mislaid 2-1. Brad done some good saves.
Now, 5 years later, Frieds has changed on from Villa and Tim Howard has taken a mangle from general avocation for a U.S. National Team, and we finally have my shot as a loyal tip keeper. Instead of being asked either I’m removing a call or not, we keep removing asked about a vigour of being a new No. 1.
Honestly, it’s tough to speak about since it’s such a difficult conditions being a keeper. Tim is unbelievable. He’s a crony of mine. This is a man who was removing calls from a boss after creation 25 saves opposite Belgium in a World Cup. Sitting on a dais in Brazil, we was only as pumped as anyone examination him put on that performance.
But if we told we that we didn’t wish to be a one out there between a sticks opposite Belgium, would we unequivocally trust me? As a keeper, we have to be that approach or we simply will not survive.
An engaging discuss popped up after a World Cup about either American-born players should be personification in a MLS or in Europe. What’s going to take a USMNT to a subsequent level?
As an American who has been in Europe for 7 years, we can tell we that it’s not always a glamorous life that people imagine. The vigour of walking out during Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford, with a supporters screaming disreputable things during we from 10 feet divided can be really tough. You hear stories about guys carrying a tough time adjusting. But if we would have walked out of Martin O’Neill’s bureau with my bags half-packed for home, my 14-year-old self would have been unhappy in that decision.
I’ll always remember that feeling of my high propagandize buddies saying, “Hey, there’s a Champions League diversion on today” and all of us perplexing to figure out a time disproportion in Europe, afterwards sprinting home from a propagandize train to locate a final 10 mins of a compare on ESPN. I’ll always remember a feeling of examination a Liverpool fans lift their scarves on TV, singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and it seemed like it was such a distant divided thing.
Now we get to travel out of a hovel during Anfield and hear it for myself. we get to line adult in idea during a KOP End and hear all a abuse that we could never hear on TV. Seriously, a initial time we was subbed into a diversion for Villa, Frieds had been sent off and we had to go in cold and try to stop a Steven Gerrard chastisement with a KOP during my back. It did not go well.
As tough as it can be to live abroad, and for as tough as it can be to travel by a newsstand in Birmingham when we lose, we would not trade that knowledge for anything.
I wish a large stage. we wish a pressure. we wish to be between a sticks. So does Timmy. So does Frieds. If we didn’t wish that, what kind of Americans would we be?