Over the course of his 20-minute Zoom conversation with reporters, Gregg Berhalter revealed that midfielder Weston McKennie would return to the starting lineup of the United States men’s national team on Thursday after missing the two most recent World Cup qualifiers. World for disciplinary reasons.
So I was willing to go public with that decision, but when asked by Sporting News if he had chosen a starting goalkeeper for the Jamaica game between Matt Turner, Zack Steffen and Sean Johnson, Berhalter declined.
“We are working on the final lineup now, this afternoon, and we’ll see.” Berhalter told SN on Wednesday. “We will keep you informed”.
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Which means that we will most likely know a little over an hour before the game.
And it will almost certainly be Turner.
As it should be.
But it is hardly a word thrown at random.
Berhalter didn’t really have to think much of this position when the USMNT met in September for their first three games of the 14 they will play in an attempt to earn a position at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Turner (above) had done brilliantly in helping the United States win the Gold Cup tournament in early August; Steffen had watched the team for much of the Nations League tournament that the Americans also won, but was injured late in the final and was replaced for the remainder of regulation time and overtime. But before El Salvador’s match that opened qualifying, Steffen was upset with back spasms. So Turner was an obvious choice to start with and he threw a shutout. And then Steffen tested positive for COVID-19 before Canada’s game in Nashville, so the net was back to Turner’s, and this time he came up with a brilliant early save that eventually contributed to a 1-1 draw and then it was solid in a 4-1 away win against Honduras.
With both players available in the camp now, Berhalter’s choice is not entirely clear. He has a history with Steffen, having deployed him regularly with the USMNT since he became head coach in 2019 and for two seasons with the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer.
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Berhalter appeared to reveal a preference for Turner in a conversation with reporters last week. When asked about his “depth chart” in goal, with the question preceded by a mention of Turner’s recent performance, Berhalter replied: “Matt is an example of how to seize his opportunity. He did that at the Gold Cup. , and he did it again in the first games of the qualifying window. ”But then he tried to regenerate the mystery by saying that coaches look at the club form of all goalkeepers and past performances with the national team.
“What I can say is that Matt has been doing an excellent job. We know Zack. We know what it can bring. Sean Johnson is another guy who’s been playing well with NYC, ”Berhalter said. “We feel like we have great coverage, great depth at the goalkeeper position.”
The 27-year-old Turner has been the regular starter for the New England Revolution since 2018 and has had at least five shutouts in each season since then. The Revs have been the best team in the league this season, and their reputation has grown, further reinforced by their impressive shooting save in all six Gold Cup games. They did not allow a single goal in five of the six games.
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Removing him from the lineup now would send a curious message to his teammates, who have seen how Turner has excelled in Steffen’s absence.
Steffen is a talented and accomplished player, and has more experience helping his teams play from behind, but transferring to Manchester City has meant playing less often. The head of City is the Brazilian Ederson, considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Steffen has played 12 national cup matches over two seasons and once in the Champions League and in the Premier League.
It’s a capable alternative if Turner falters, but there has been no indication that such a thing is likely. Berhalter won’t say until 6:30 ET Thursday, but while he has options, he doesn’t have a choice.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.