01/13/2019 -- Marietta, Georgia -- Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) runs drills at the team's training facility during training at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, Monday, January 13, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Atlanta United’s goalkeepers doing what they can to stay sharp

Brad Guzan won’t be diving around his front yard while trying to save shots from his wife or his 4-year-old during the training moratorium instituted by MLS as it attempts to do its part to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Guzan and the rest of Atlanta United’s goalkeepers haven’t faced live shots in more than two weeks, which is when the first training bans were put forth as part of social-distancing measures suggested by the Centers for Disease Control. Teams won’t return to training until at least April 3.

How is a goalkeeper supposed to properly train when people are supposed to stay away from each other? More than any other position in the sport, goalkeepers need at least one more person to take shots at them. Sure, a player can kick a ball against a fence and try to save the rebound, such as in the video that has gone viral of the young player doing that in his backyard, but that’s not the same as what professionals are used to doing almost every day.

“The goalkeeping side of it is taking a little bit of a backseat with the times,” Guzan said.

Alec Kann, one of the team’s goalkeepers, said he did some footwork drills in a local park, but that ended when the shelter-in-place mandate was issued by the City of Atlanta.

Atlanta United is trying to make the best of this unprecedented situation.

Liam Curran, the position coach, sends video clips to the players, which includes Guzan, Kann and Brendon Moore. The group will gather on email to discuss the clips.

“It’s uncharted waters, right?” Guzan said. “We’ve never had anything like this happen for anyone in the world. To kind of try to navigate it has been unprecedented, but we are trying to do the best we can.”

Kann said that while watching video of himself he has picked up on at least one tendency that he wants to improve once teams train again. He said he was setting too high off his line and the ball was getting to him too quickly before he was able to set his feet and react.

“Not something I would have noticed had I not seen the video,” he said. 

To watch Atlanta United’s goalkeepers during a normal training is to watch constant movement as drill-after-drill is checked off. Under Aron Hyde the previous three seasons and now under Curran, the goalkeepers go through numerous exercises to sharpen their fundamentals, reflexes, shot-stopping, decision-making and deliveries. They move from one side of the goal to the other, working on angles. 

Among last year’s results: Guzan tied for the league lead in shutouts (14). Kann helped the club win the U.S. Open Cup with starts in the early stages and was in the net for the Campeones Cup championship win against Club America. 

Guzan, 35, said he is approaching training now as if he’s in the offseason, which ended two months ago. He said he is trying keep himself physically fit. He and Kann, 29, said the goalkeeping rhythms will return. 

“It’s more about keeping yourself engaged mentally and switched on and thinking forward into what you want to get out of the season once it comes back into fruition,” Kann said.

01/13/2019 -- Marietta, Georgia -- Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann (25) practices at the team's training facility at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, Monday, January 13, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

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