Seltzer: Fresh off long EPL stint, Brad Guzan primed to make noise in MLS

Brad Guzan - Middlesbrough - preseason 2016-17

From Romain Alessandrini to Blerim Dzemaili, the winter catches of MLS clubs have provided weekly evidence that we've just come through one of the strongest transfer windows in league history.

There is, however, one big-name recruit who has yet to have his say in the unfolding MLS season: incoming Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

It's been nearly a decade since the US international patrolled the net for Chivas USA, so we're here to recap what he accomplished in England, how his game has changed, and what Atlanta fans can expect from him once he becomes eligible to suit up in July.

Bye, Bye Boro

Guzan's final season in England was spent with a promoted Middlesbrough side that went straight back down to the Championship. The American was the Teessiders' backup, only appearing when Victor Valdes was ruled out.

This was the case as the season wore down, so Guzan started Boro's last seven games of the season. In all, the American worked 10 league matches and four domestic cup affairs, posting four wins and four clean sheets. All told, he played 201 games in England, including 10 FA Cup tilts (with an 8-2 record) and nine European contests. All but 30 of those came in an Aston Villa shirt.

During the Illinois native's first three seasons with Villa, he was understudy to USMNT and Premier League legend Brad Friedel. He did backstop the Villans all the way to the 2010 League Cup final, but stepped aside for his countryman when it came time for the championship match, which his side lost 2-1 to Manchester United.

After Friedel moved on, Guzan was a backup to longtime EPL star netminder Shay Given during the 2011-12 season. He won the No. 1 job at Villa Park early in the following campaign and kept it for the better part of four seasons.

Guzan's best campaign was that first term as the starter, after which he became just the fifth American to be named Player of the Year for a Premier League side (joining Friedel, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden). His heroics that season helped Villa avoid the drop.

Despite spending the lion's share of his English tenure playing behind an infamously shoddy Villa defense, Guzan chalked up 58 wins and 44 shutouts during his time overseas.

The Scouting Report

What kind of goalkeeper is Atlanta getting? Guzan remains an ace shot-stopper (that is prone to a gaffe every so often), but his all-around game has expanded over the last nine years.

Of particular note, Guzan's command of the area has improved. Upon leaving MLS, he was questioned as a 'keeper that would often stay too married to his line. Now, he's much more comfortable racing out to squelch opponent chances or deal with a cross.

He finished between fourth and seventh in the EPL in punches every season he was the Villa starter, and his cross-claim percentage has risen in four of the last five seasons to a career-best 0.980 success rate.

Guzan has also improved as a penalty-stopper, which could pay dividends to an Atlanta side that has already conceded three goals from the spot in their first 11 games. He saved just one out of every five attempts against (3-of-15 total) during his previous MLS stretch, but turned away 10 of 37 tries (one stop every 3.7 PK's) while in England. One of his finest days across the pond came when he rejected a regulation spot kick from impending teammate Kenwyne Jones, and then rejected another three in the shootout to help Villa beat Sunderland for a League Cup quarterfinal place in October of 2009.

There's also his improvement in long distribution, which should prove very handy to an Atlanta side that thrives on the fast break. Since 2012, Guzan's averaged a hair more than 11 long pass completions per game.

All things considered, Guzan could be a good bet to contend for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors if he can help lead Atlanta to a postseason berth. And regardless of how the season goes in Atlanta, the 32-year-old should again be first in line to grab the US starting job away from Tim Howard with regular games under his belt.

He's at a prime performance age at his position, and no other 'keeper in the pool can match his worldly experience.