A four-year World Cup cycle encompasses lots of changes. A roster from the beginning of the period is never the same as the end, players switch clubs and then the personal moments of marriage or having kids takes place as well. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and midfielder Dax McCarty are two prime examples of players that have experienced all of the above recently, so it’s fitting they arrived to Denver together to start the MNT’s June World Cup Qualifying camp on Sunday.
No stranger to the MNT, Guzan missed out on the March camp as he and his wife welcomed their second child to the world back in England.
“Being a dad is the best thing in the world,” Guzan told ussoccer.com. “Some people say going from one to two kids is an easy change, but being on the other side of the world, away from family and friends to lend a helping hand, it makes things a tougher. I’m very lucky. My wife did a fantastic job and it’s a tremendous feeling. To be able to welcome our daughter into the world was really a blessing.”
“And your wife knows you have really safe hands, so that’s nice,” McCarty quipped about the goalkeeper’s baby-handling skills.
Fatherhood and time difference didn’t prevent Guzan from keeping tabs on the USA’s impressive 6-0 win against Honduras or 1-1 away draw with Panama.
“They were two huge games and finishing last year the way we did, going into those qualifiers the boys responded fantastically. They were great results and kind of put us back on track. To be able to follow the games, follow the updates and see what was happening, you definitely wake up the next morning with a smile on your face, knowing the guys did a great job.”
Guzan’s return stateside will also be permanent as he’s set to join expansion Atlanta United FC in July after spending a season with Middlesbrough. McCarty can give him a little advice on switching clubs after the longtime MLS midfielder experienced upheaval of his own at the start of the year. A day after getting married, he arrived into his first MNT camp since 2014 only to find out he had been traded from the New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire.
Processing that change while trying to impress Bruce Arena and his staff, McCarty performed admirably and received high marks for his performance in the USA’s 1-0 friendly win against Jamaica on Feb. 3. On the heels of that display, McCarty joined the Fire and has been part of the club’s turnaround this season, playing all 13 games for a side that sits second in the Supporters Shield race.
“More than the results, what’s been more interesting and great to see from a Chicago Fire perspective is that the team as a whole is playing better,” McCarty said. “You can tell the confidence of the group is a lot higher. Obviously we signed a small player named Bastian Schweinsteiger. He’s come in and brought a lot of quality to the team. You can just tell that the vibes and confidence in the team are really high right now.”
More out than in the frame of the MNT since making his debut in 2009, McCarty was one of the big winners from January Camp and is now part of his third-consecutive gathering. Though he didn’t play in the March qualifiers, he did get a first-hand view of the team’s turnaround.
“It was just amazing to see the response of the group. In years past, every time the guys had a poor result and things were looking a little shaky in qualifying, the team always responded. To be a part of that for the first time was really cool.”
With a tight timetable between the USA’s upcoming qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago (June 8) and at Mexico (June 11), MNT head coach Bruce Arena has said there will be lineup changes for the two games. That may allow McCarty, who is one of four players in camp without a qualifying appearance, to make his competitive debut for the United States.
- READ MORE: Arena Discusses June WCQ Roster Selections
Meanwhile, in the midst of his third qualifying cycle, Guzan is battle-tested in the way of CONCACAF’s Final Round Hexagonal. With a trip to infamous Estadio Azteca on the docket at the end of the trip, the man who backstopped the U.S. to a 0-0 draw at the vaunted Mexican venue has confidence the team can do even more there this time around.
“Going back to the last set of games, getting the results that we did to put us in a position to go into these two with the confidence and belief that we can get six points and really push us forward,” Guzan said. “I think that’s going to be huge. Not looking past the Trinidad game, but we know that we can go to Azteca and get a result. We’ve done that before. First and foremost we want to take care of business here in Denver, get three points and obviously put us in a position to go down there and get a result that is going to ultimately help us qualify for the World Cup.”