U.S. keeper Brad Guzan has again left the U.S. training camp in Southern California and this time, it's not to train and talk, but to take the next step in his career.
A bid that will increase to 2 million pounds (approximately $4 million) if he makes a certain number of appearances, from English Premier League club Aston Villa has been accepted by MLS. Guzan will have a medical exam Wednesday and upon agreeing to salary terms the process of securing a work permit will accelerate.
Guzan cannot be granted a work permit outright by the Home Office, which governs immigration and visa proceedings in the United Kingdom, since he falls far short of the benchmark of playing in 75 percent of his national team's competitive 'A' internationals the past two years. He earned his one competitive cap last summer in the Copa America against Colombia.
To secure a work permit on appeal, Villa will have to persuade a six-person panel - composed of former players, coaches, soccer executives, and Home Office officials - that he is a Premier League-caliber player.
That hearing is scheduled for Thursday, pending the medical exam.
The club's case will be strengthened by the fact its current No. 1 keeper, Scott Carson, is playing on loan from Liverpool and will return to his regular club when the loan expires in June.
A strong recommendation from manager Martin O'Neill and letters of recommendation will sway the panel, of which four members must vote to approve the appeal. A 3-3 split isn't good enough, which U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey discovered five years ago during his appeal hearing when Tottenham tried to buy him. The following year, Convey did secure a work permit and signed with Reading.
If the permit is granted and the contract approved, Guzan will not need to meet the appearances requirement to retain his permit. Formerly, permits were reviewed and either renewed or annulled annually; under current policies, a permit is valid for the duration of the player's contract.
Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen had made 139 league appearances since arriving at Villa in 2003 but suffered a hamstring injury in a July 25 friendly against Toronto and hasn't played a league or cup match this season. He is trying to find another club before the transfer window closes Thursday.
Carson has taken over the No. 1 shirt since arriving on loan, and backup Stuart Young, despite a pro career that extends back to the start of the decade, has never been a starter while playing for several clubs. So Villa can surely argue a case that it projects Guzan to be the starter.
Guzan is represented by Richard Motzkin, who has been negotiating personal terms with Aston Villa and soliciting evidence to be presented at the hearing. The club is owned by American entrepreneur Randy Lerner. The transfer to Aston Villa is being brokered by Patrick McCabe and Barry MacLean of First Artists Sports.