Analysis

Guzan to MLS? Here's 5 potential landing spots

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta will be at the top of the Allocation Order, but as Paul Tenorio writes, the expansion team may not be the best fit for the returning U.S. international.

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United States men’s national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is exploring a potential return to Major League Soccer in the January transfer window.

The 32-year-old remains in his prime, but he hasn’t been able to find consistent minutes at Middlesbrough in the English Premier League. If there isn’t a good landing spot in Europe, MLS might be the perfect landing spot – especially as Guzan tries to stay in the mix for the starting job with the national team.

With Tim Howard out due to injury, Guzan has a prime opportunity to step into the top role. But he’ll have to start playing consistently to stay in form ahead of the March qualifiers.

If Guzan does come back to Major League Soccer, where he last played for Chivas USA in 2008, here are five teams that might be a good fit for the netminder. 

New York City FC

The surprising Eastern Conference runner-up has been a defensive disaster for much of its existence, but goalkeeping started to look like an issue late last year.

Head coach Patrick Vieira, seemingly unhappy with the play of starter Josh Saunders, benched the veteran netminder for unproven Eirik Johansen just before this season’s playoffs. Saunders had started 66 of NYCFC’s previous 68 regular season games, but his 1.71 goals against average may finally have lost the manager.

The unrest at the goalkeeper position may prompt NYCFC to go looking for a starter elsewhere, and if Guzan falls in a non-Designated Player range, he could be an easy decision for the higher-ups at City Football Group.

Atlanta United

The expansion side may look to be out of the running for Guzan considering the reported trade with the Chicago Fire for goalkeeper (and Atlanta native) Sean Johnson, but seeing as how Atlanta holds the top spot in the allocation order, we can’t completely eliminate it.

It would be a shocking move if Atlanta holds on to the top spot and keeps Guzan. The team undoubtedly would have to have a trade arranged to move either the national team goalkeeper or Johnson. But considering the fact that United has the top spot in the allocation order, it has to be considered in any equation when talking about Guzan.

Ultimately, Atlanta holds the power in deciding where Guzan ends up, because it could flip that top spot in the allocation order at any time.

Minnesota United

Derik Hamilton-USA Today Sports

Derik Hamilton-USA Today Sports

With Adrian Heath now in place as coach in Minnesota, the expansion franchise needs to move quickly to fill 26 open roster spots ahead of the start of preseason.

Heath and general manager Manny Lagos are headed to South and Central America to look for players, but they may be able to snag a starting goalkeeper right back at home. It might be an easy sell for Guzan, who grew up not too far away in Chicago. The Midwestern roots always create a pull, and Guzan’s experience could help shore up United’s back line – an area Heath said he would focus on, especially after some of the defensive struggles his teams experienced in Orlando.

Guzan is a good enough goalkeeper to earn you a few wins in MLS, and he comes at a much cheaper price than Tim Howard. It might be the perfect price point for Minnesota.

Chicago Fire

This is the most interesting of the markets when it comes to Guzan, and perhaps the most likely to land him.

Guzan was born and raised in Chicago, and the pull of home can be a strong one when raising a family. If Guzan is coming back to the U.S., returning to his roots would be a natural choice. Meanwhile, Chicago general manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked often about finding leaders for his locker room, and Guzan’s veteran presence could potentially bring that exact effect.

Ultimately, it will be about whether Guzan’s price is at the right point for Chicago, which also has forward, central midfield, center back, right back and right wing on its shopping list. Would it be willing to use a Targeted Allocation Money spot on a goalkeeper?

LA Galaxy

The Galaxy could be a wildcard in the equation.

LA certainly has the money to make it work. But who is guiding the ship? With Bruce Arena off to the U.S. national team, there’s no telling which direction the Galaxy will go in player acquisitions. It also got a pretty decent season out of goalkeeper Brian Rowe last year.

Rowe isn’t the sexiest name out there, but in 31 games played, he turned in nine shutouts with only 33 goals allowed – among the best numbers in MLS. He is also sitting on a cap-friendly $80,000 number.

The Galaxy will have to decide if Rowe can replicate his success for a second straight season, or if it might be worth bringing in a national-team quality goalkeeper on a non-DP deal. It might be too good to pass up for one of the league’s perennial contenders.

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Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. He works as a freelance reporter on Fire home TV broadcasts. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulTenorio.