With his first full season as an Atlanta United goalkeeper on the horizon, Brad Guzan is confident that his experience and time with the team since stepping on the field last July will pay dividends in 2018.
“Any time you’re able to spend more time with the guys it’s important,” said the U.S. international. “So for myself, coming midway through the season, I’ve learned the guys’ personalities on and off the field. Being able to develop that bond, that understanding without having to say anything or look, knowing where guys are going to be. We’re just trying to get that now with the new players we’ve added.”
The club has certainly added reinforcements in all three lines of the pitch this offseason including the likes of Franco Escobar, Darlington Nagbe and Ezequiel Barco among others. But the chemistry must come first if they are to perform and integrate seamlessly.
“It’s important to find a cohesiveness together and make sure that we are able to help each other do the little things that allow our star players to go express their talents and give the fans what they want. So we need to have a foundation and a base before that can happen, and I think we’re getting there.”
ATL UTD finished preseason with one win, two draws and one loss. But more key than the results, the team began to mirror that smooth, possession-oriented, attractive style of play they became renowned for last season. Guzan says that was apparent by the end of their preseason training stint.
“You need to make sure you use that preseason as a measuring stick to make sure you’re going in the right direction, which is a positive one. I think we’ve done that as a team, I think I’ve done that individually. I feel sharp, I feel good, so it’s been a good preseason.”
Now, all heads turn toward the regular season opener in Houston on Saturday and Guzan emphasized how crucial their performance is in setting the tone for the club’s second year.
“First and foremost, you want to try to get off to a good start. It’s a long season ahead and you want to make sure you have a check mark in the positive column. That comes down to the style of play, that comes down to the little things that may result in a win, a draw, or whatever that may be…It’s always difficult when you’re on the road, and it’s our job as players and as a team to pick up points.”
Last season, the team was nearly unstoppable at home and was able to come up with huge results on the road including draws in Toronto, Portland and Seattle – three of the toughest environments in MLS. However, for Guzan and the rest of the squad, year one is firmly in the rear view and a new season lies ahead, with even more ambitious goals in mind.
“Everyone talks about how it was a success, and it was great, as an expansion team we did a lot of wonderful things. But at the end of the day we’re here to win trophies. We’re here to win MLS Cup. So in that sense we fell short, so we want to make sure we put ourselves in a position to do that and that starts with winning regular season games and making sure you’re good going into the playoffs.”
All the anticipation ends this weekend as the 2018 MLS regular season officially kicks off which means – for Atlanta United – the hunger from falling short in playoffs combined with the grueling preparation of preseason will finally get its chance to hit the field.
“Now it’s show time, games are going to come thick and fast. They’re going to matter. Every week is important for us and we want to make sure we build week to week…Whether it’s the first game or the middle of the season, we want to make sure that we’re hard to play against.”
After Guzan and company put their readiness to the test in Houston Saturday, ATL UTD will return to Atlanta for their 2018 Mercedes-Benz debut as they host D.C. United on March 11th. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve secured your seat here.