How USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner landed at the World Cup

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RAYYAN, Qatar – Matt Turner was the starting goalkeeper for the United States in Monday’s World Cup opener, and barring any unforeseen events, he will keep his job in the game. on Friday against England and while the men’s national team remains in the competition.

How unbelievable is all this? Let him explain.

“I’ve done my meditation. It’s crazy — even bananas,” Turner said. “It’s something you wouldn’t even think to write about, because you’re like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t even make sense. It’s not real.’ It’s a story that pales in comparison to the people I share the locker room with every day and raising them during the game. It’s a unicorn.”

Consider this: He didn’t start playing competitive football until he was 16, and he never played for the national youth team. He played in the shadow of the university (Fairfield University) and was ignored in the MLS draft. His debut was with the lower-ranked Richmond Kickers. Just 22 months ago, at the age of 26, he did not make his senior national team debut.

“I just hope to show someone one day, if they’re in doubt whether or not to play sports or think it’s time to do something either athletically or in their personal life, they can still do it.” ,” Turner said.

Turner is a late-bloomer who has endured, and his journey has taken him in the past six months from the New England Revolution to Premier League leaders Arsenal and, for a few weeks, involved big in the world cup.

He is the latest in a long line of American goalkeepers who have found a home in Europe’s top leagues while climbing the national team’s depth chart, along with Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard. .

“I coached Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, goaltenders who played well [in the Premier League], and Matt can grow to that level,” said Revolution coach Bruce Arena, a two-time U.S. World Cup champion. “Arsenal have got a very good goalkeeper.”

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A closer look at the USMNT roster

Last year, the expectation was that Turner and Zack Steffen would compete for the American starting job. But when coach Gregg Berhalter announced the roster two weeks ago, Steffen wasn’t even on it.

Berhalter did not elaborate, but the person familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said Berhalter felt strongly that Turner was her guardian and that Sean Johnson fills the 3rd row.

He then decided that Ethan Horvath would be the best fit to fill in for Turner at shortstop, if needed. Horvath came on as a sub in the 2021 Concacaf Nations League final, making one save, and came on late in Nottingham Forest’s Premier League win last spring.

With the position cleared ahead of the World Cup, Turner made a crucial save in the Group B opener against Wales before Gareth Bale converted an 82nd-minute penalty for The score is 1-1. He tracked down Bale’s shot, but because he was hit with such venom and kept away from him, he only managed to hit it wide.

The Americans need to beat England on Friday or Iran next Tuesday for the Americans to advance to the round of 16.

For Turner, Monday’s starting job capped off a big year. In February, as Turner prepared to begin his fifth full MLS season, the Revolution agreed to sell him to Arsenal for at least $6 million, starting in June.

Before joining the Gunners, he started four American games, adding to a portfolio that included eight starts in the 2021-22 World Cup Round of 14. (Steffen started the other six.)

Turner did not play much for Arsenal. In the league, he was the defender of Aaron Ramsdale, who made the England World Cup team.

Turner started Arsenal’s first four group games in the UEFA Europa League – the continent’s second-tier competition – but missed the last two with a neck injury. The Gunners won the group and were promoted on March 16.

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Turner scored one goal in those four games, including a 1-0 win at Bodo/Glimt, a Norwegian club north of the Arctic Circle.

“What I find difficult sometimes, as a keeper, the practice is more difficult than the game,” he said of the role of backup. “In training, you see hundreds of movements per session, and you often fail. It’s hard, mentally and physically. It can be hard to see how far you’ve gotten if you don’t have a track record of your in-game performance. “

US national team coach Gregg Berhalter has a talented young team with experience in the top European leagues, but not in international competition. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

It was different in New England, where, after returning from a loan in Richmond, he was the first starter in 2018.

“Every week in New England, it doesn’t really matter what I do in training,” he said. “I was going to play, and the game became my brand. So I think it depends on how you approach your situation.

Despite not playing regularly, Turner said he learned a lot in the highly competitive environment.

Outlook: The draw is good for the USMNT. But at some point ‘good’ isn’t enough.

“If you don’t bring it on a certain day, you’ll find out quickly,” he said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys that I’m introduced to.”

Turner learned a lesson in a private training session.

“I gave the ball away, and I showed that I was upset and upset,” he said. Manager Mikel Arteta “pressed me and was basically like: ‘I don’t want to see that. I don’t like that reaction. I want to see you get up and carry on.’

“I think that’s what really put my attitude in the club and to keep going no matter what. If you fail, it’s okay. The most important thing is your attitude, not the failure itself.

The US men’s World Cup team will face Wales, Iran and group favorites England at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Turner also learned to appreciate English football culture.

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“It’s very different from sports in the United States,” he said. “They applaud you for the little things you can do. The little nuances of the game are appreciated. It’s like an interactive experience, and the emotions of the fans closely follow the emotions of the game. That’s really cool. Some sports in the United States are registered. They tell you by see what to say, but things in the Premier League – and in football – can be more organic. “

England, who know the value of expectations, open the World Cup in great form

Despite not being given a full-time appointment, Turner confirmed his national team status. Berhalter turned to him in September for the final two games of the World Cup. In the team’s convincing victories against Japan and Saudi Arabia, Turner was the only bright spot.

If Turner is fit when training camp opens, he will start against Wales.

It was a long bus ride to an away game in Richmond five years ago.

“Looking back at my story, I hope kids can find a path,” Turner said. “A man from the New England Revolution, who two, three years ago people would never have believed was doing business with Arsenal, has started the season with Arsenal.”

And now in the World Cup.

World Cup in Qatar

Live Latest News: The European powers take center stage on Wednesday in Qatar, where the world group matches continue. Stay tuned for the latest news, updates and highlights.

USMNT: In their return to the World Cup, the U.S. boys tied 1-1 with Wales in their Group B opener. The U.S. men’s national team face an even bigger task on Friday against Group B favorites England, who beat Iran 6-2 on Monday.

Qatar dispute: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and fought with the crowd to remove the symbol.

Group instructions: Coach Gregg Berhalter and star player Christian Pulisic have qualified for the 2022 World Cup, improving on a hit-and-miss 2018 campaign. Here’s a closer look at how all the teams stack up in each group.

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