Sources: USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan exploring return to MLS

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With playing time hard to come by at Middlesbrough, Guzan could come back to MLS, Paul Tenorio reports.

U.S. men's national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is exploring a potential return to Major League Soccer in the January transfer window, according to league sources.

Guzan would be available on what could be classified as a non-Designated Player deal, according to one source. Another source, however, cautioned Guzan may be simply “testing interest” from MLS teams.

If Guzan does return stateside, the list of suitors could include two of the higher-spending teams in the league. Both New York City FC and the LA Galaxy could be in the market for a goalkeeper, and both have shown a willingness to shell out for higher-profile players like Guzan. The Evergreen Park, Ill., native would also be a potential fit for the Chicago Fire, where he spent two years playing for the reserves. Guzan grew up in Homer Glen, Ill., about 30 minutes from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
The road to signing Guzan would run through Atlanta United, however.

Guzan is under contract with Middlesbrough and thus would not be available for transfer until the January window opens. While Chicago currently owns the top spot in the allocation order, the league calendar will reset after MLS Cup on Dec. 10 and Atlanta United will move into the top spot, followed by Minnesota United. Both expansion clubs could be looking for a goalkeeper.

The two expansion teams have plenty of allocation money to make the move work. According to multiple league sources, the teams will have approximately $3 million in combined general and targeted allocation money going into their respective inaugural seasons in MLS.

Guzan would become the second U.S. national team goalkeeper to return to MLS in the past year. Tim Howard signed with the Colorado Rapids on a contract that paid him $2.575 million in 2016. According to reports, Howard’s contract was a 3.5-year deal worth $8 million. Howard had seven shutouts in 17 regular season games for Colorado this season, allowing just 19 goals as the Rapids advanced to the Western Conference finals.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Guzan was drafted No. 2 overall by Chivas USA in 2005 and played four seasons in Los Angeles, making 79 regular-season appearances and turning in 24 shutouts with a 1.40 goals against average. The 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year then joined Aston Villa in 2008 for a reported $1 million fee and made more than 140 Premier League appearances with Villa before moving to Middlesbrough this past season.

This summer, Guzan was atop the U.S. national team’s depth chart during its run to the Copa America semifinals, and he remains in a competition with Howard for the starting job ahead of the 2018 World Cup. A move to MLS would help Guzan in that bid to earn the starting job. Guzan needs consistent playing time, and it simply has not happened since his move to The Boro.

With Howard out injured for several months, the U.S. would directly benefit from Guzan finding consistent playing time at the club level. Asked this week if Guzan is the automatic starter with Howard out, U.S. coach Bruce Arena failed to give an endorsement.

“No,” he said bluntly. “He likely is, but is anything automatic? No, I think we’ll look at other goalkeepers and strengthen that position a little bit, because you never know the status of Tim.”

The all-important World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama will be played on March 24 and March 28, respectively, a few weeks after the start of the 2017 MLS regular season.

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