The proof of Atlanta United’s league-leading 12th shutout this season, coming in Sunday’s 2-0 win at Portland, was the marble-sized knot on the back of Brad Guzan’s head, the cuts on his face and his bemusement when asked how his noggin felt.
“Part of the position of being a goalkeeper,” he said. “You put your head, you put your body, you put your face ... it’s part of the position. You have to be brave. I’ll be alright.”
Guzan ran through a list of injuries (broken nose, orbital fractures) he’s sustained after seemingly sarcastically asking the team videographer if she wanted to preserve the knot digitally.
The latest injury came when he was accidentally kneed in the head in the first half by a Portland player during a scramble for the ball. Guzan took another blow to the head in the second half.
None of the minor injuries prevented him from making what could be the MLS save of the year in the 65th minute on Sunday.
Trailing 2-0, Portland pushed forward to try to break the shutout.
Diego Valeri picked up the ball on the right near the end line and put in a cross to the penalty spot. Julio Cascante got a running start and jumped higher than Miles Robinson to power his header down into the ground near the goal line. Guzan, who was shuffling to his right to follow the path of the cross, put on the brakes, hopped to his left and reached down with his left hand to stop the shot. Guzan said he didn’t remember much about it in the minutes after the game other than it was an instinctual save.
Several Portland players walked away after the save with their hands on their heads.
“Big time,” midfielder Julian Gressel said of Guzan’s performance. “With that (possible goal), it becomes a game, especially with them at home, good crowd. Those things are massive. That’s’what we have him for. He saved us in a really tight game at the end.”
Guzan finished with five saves, including two more of top quality.
“It’s fantastic,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “Goalkeepers they get ... you look for those kinds of things from goalkeepers: the incredible save that keeps you in the games or gets you a victory. Today was a fantastic performance.”