2021 League Games: 30 appearances, 30 starts
What went right in 2021
At the ripe young age of 36/37 that was 2021 for Atlanta United’s goalkeeper and captain, Brad Guzan produced one of the best years of his career and statistically his best yet in an Atlanta United shirt. According to Goals Added (G+), Guzan was a positive contributor of more than four goals of value (4.3) for Atlanta over the course of the season, ranking sixth overall among MLS goalkeepers. Even more optimistically as it pertains to the season ahead, Guzan ranked 18th on the G+ list on the date Gabriel Heinze was let go from the team. Guzan’s numbers, particularly his shot-stopping, skyrocketed down the last half of the season with a more traditional defensive shape and scheme in front of him.
What to improve in 2022
There’s an old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Now I’m not saying Guzan is a dog, but he is old! (Tip your servers, folks)
In all seriousness, when we look at goalkeepers of Guzan’s profile, it’s not so much about implementing something new, but rather staying healthy and maintaining one’s level to the greatest extent possible. The former is always a roll of the dice, but the latter seems possible especially given his great year last season.
But if there was something technical that you could point to as an area of improvement, it’s organization on set pieces — something that doomed Atlanta’s season in its playoff loss to eventual MLS Cup champions NYCFC. While outfield players should know their assignments defending set pieces, ultimate responsibility lies with the goalkeeper and it’s something that is a constant work-in-progress.
2022 Season Outlook
The knock on Guzan has been and will continue to be his contract ($805k in 2021), which on a purely quantitative level will always outstrip the value he provides in raw numbers on the field. But Guzan’s role is more than just being the team’s man between the sticks, he’s also an undeniable veteran leader for the group in the locker room and on the training pitch, where he is intense and competitive. Ultimately, the team doesn’t need Guzan to be anything more than what he was in 2021. They make up value gains in other positions. What they need from Guzan is for him to be reliably available and do his thing stopping shots. With a settled coaching staff and group of defenders in front of him, there’s every indication that the grizzled vet can put forward the type of season a champion needs out of its goalkeeper.