Brad Guzan beats odds in quicker return from torn MCL

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

ORLANDO – Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan doesn’t care much for timeframes.

Guzan tore his MCL April 8 against New York City FC. The team initially projected a 10-to-12-week absence. Remarkably, Guzan returned to the field Saturday in Orlando, starting in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw.

“The knee is great,” Guzan said after Saturday’s match. “I have something (in me that makes me) heal quick.”

Atlanta United’s captain took the field seven weeks – only 49 days – after suffering the injury. Guzan, 38, was initially injured when NYCFC’s Gabriel Segal ran into him in the 17th minute of an eventual 1-1 draw. While Guzan immediately showed he was in pain, no foul was called.

Guzan remained in the game, making two saves, but it was later revealed he’d miss “at least” 10 weeks due to an MCL tear in his left knee. It was his second significant injury recently after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that cost him the last 27 games last season.

Yet Guzan recovered quickly without any issues. Guzan praised his club’s training staff, lauding them for caring about the team as players and people. He played well in his return, showing his valued communication and making a couple of nice stops, including one diving effort in the 78th minute.

“It’s just fantastic,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “He’s the voice in the locker room. He’s the voice on the field. He manages moments in the game, he’s talking to players, organizing the back line. … That leadership, being the captain, his voice and that experience, it’s very helpful for the team.”

Guzan missed only eight games (going2-4-2) with his MCL tear. And in his mind, he should’ve missed even fewer.

“I don’t go off these timeframes,” Guzan said. “I told our doctor, ‘I’m not hanging out for 10 weeks. It’s not going to be 10 weeks. It’s going to be earlier than that.’ I’m probably one of their most annoying patients when I’m in that medical room, but I joke and give them a hard time – that’s not for me. I don’t want to be in there. So when they tell me to do something, I do that and a little more. I’m always pushing the boundaries. Not in a crazy or stupid way, but in a way I know my body can do it.

“We’re always doing things in a collaborative way. … Yeah, they said 10-for-12 weeks. But for me, I was looking more four (weeks). So I was a bit behind. But I’m happy to be back.”

Guzan has started 148 games for Atlanta United (227 overall). Quentin Westberg and Clement Diop handled goalkeeper duties in his absence. Westberg started each of Atlanta United’s four games this month before Saturday. “I was happy with how they did in (Guzan’s) absence,” Pineda said.

Atlanta United is still trying to find itself. The club has been an offensive behemoth, leading MLS in goals scored, but it’s also surrendered the second-most goals. The club has tied its past two games, and was fortunate for that result in Orlando thanks to forward Tyler Wolff’s equalizer in the 87th minute.

Certainly, having Guzan back only helps. His leadership alone holds strong value. Just ask the 20-year-old Wolff.

“He’s a grinder,” Wolff said. “He doesn’t care, he just wants to be on the field. He’s very passionate. He’ll do anything he can to be part of the team and help the team. He’s an intense guy. When he’s talking, everybody is listening. For me, I just try to absorb that information. I know he’s been doing this for a while and he’s been in lots of scenarios. He’s seen lots of different games. If I can just keep absorbing the information he gives us, and try to apply it and keep learning.”

Guzan is still learning, too. In his near two-decade career, he hadn’t suffered a long-term injury until last season. He’s now overcome two, feeling confident in himself after doing so.

“Last year was new territory for me,” he said. “I knew I had to listen to (the training staff) and they did a fantastic job on my Achilles. Then obviously this injury, a bit of a freak challenge in the New York game, and next thing I know, they’re telling me 10-to-12 weeks. And I was like, ‘Alright, no problem. You guys can go by that timeline. I’m going to go by this one.’ And here we are.”

Atlanta United hosts New England at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday night. The Five Stripes are 5-1-1 at home.