by Stephen Copeland
U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan says having faith has steadied his sport
United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan thought he played poorly in place of Chivas USA's injured keeper in 2005. The squad finished with an abysmal 4-22 record in its first season, and Brad believed much of it fell on him.
"I was young," he says. "I wasn't sure I was ready mentally, physically. And I wasn't sure if I was good enough. There were a lot of question marks going through my head."
At the end of the season, however, Brad received an email inviting him to the U.S. National team's camp in January. It was a very unexpected invitation to represent his country and a huge confidence boost after a terrible rookie year.
Two years later he was named the 2007 Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year. This led to an opportunity to play for Aston Villa in one of the world's best soccer leagues, the English Premier League in 2008, where he has remained ever since. Being in such a competitive league has not been easy, but he has come a long ways since Chivas USA's 4-22 record in 2005.
"My personal life, my faith life and my sport life - they all come together""It was a trying ?rst four years in England," Brad says. "It was dif?cult because you would play a game, do well and the next week you would ?nd yourself on the bench. So it was inconsistent football that I was experiencing."
Yet the one thing that has remained consistent in his mentally challenging position as a goalkeeper, the thing that keeps him steady in all circumstances, is his relationship with Jesus Christ.
"When things are going well for you, you can't get too high," Brad says. "When things aren't going your way, you can't get too low...I think as athletes, everyone gets caught in the heat of the moment, and then maybe do things that they regret later on. For me, I am no different. I am not perfect...But God loves everyone. You have to be able to open yourself to Him and allow Him into your life. And if you do that, the forgiveness, the relief that comes off your shoulders, knowing that you have God's love, you are able to follow Him through your life's journey."
In March of 2013, Brad started in place of an injured Tim Howard for the men's national team in two 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifiers and did not give up a goal in either match.
"For me, my personal life, my faith life and my sport life – they all come together," Brad says. "I think they have to. I think that is just natural. You don't have one without the other and most importantly you have to have Jesus in your life...As I said, it hasn't always been a rosy road to success. There are always going to be bumps along the way. And through those dif?culties, Jesus has helped me get through all of those struggles."
Brad believes that "everyone needs Christ in their life."
"The money, the fame, the cars, all that stuff," he comments, "...it can be gone tomorrow and you only have your family, your close friends and ultimately Jesus Christ."
Brad remembers that his journey with Christ started at a very young age, learning about God at church with his family.
Although he cannot recall a specific moment he asked Jesus to forgive him of his sin, he says that he always wanted to "continue to follow [Jesus] and I think that is important throughout one's life."
In his prayers about what happens on-field, Brad asks that "everyone stays healthy, that we can do our best and perform to the best of our ability, to stay focused and that we don't forget...we are role models and we are doing it in Christ's name."
He does not ask for a win or goals to be scored or saved, instead he says, "You have to accept the game as it comes."
"How you handle those situations (of losing) in a professional manner and a way of giving thanks – you become stronger as an individual and as a follower [of Jesus] through difficult times."
For the rest of his life, Brad says he wants to tell others about the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for those who desire His forgiveness and eternal life in Him.
As Brad explains, "Jesus has given the ultimate sacrifice...[it is] enormous, and the least we can do is to try to spread His Word and to live as He would like [us to]." ?
Courtesy Sports Spectrum