During his 20-minute Zoom chat with reporters, Gregg Berhalter revealed that midfielder Weston McKennie will return to the starting lineup for the United States Men’s National Team on Thursday after missing the final two playoffs of the World Cup for disciplinary reasons.
He was therefore ready to make this decision public, but at the request of Sporting News if he had chosen a starting goalie for the game against Jamaica from among Matt Turner, Zack Steffen and Sean Johnson, Berhalter declined.
“We are working on the final composition now, this afternoon, and we will see”, Berhalter told SN on Wednesday. “We’ll keep you guys posted. “
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Which means we’ll probably find out a little over an hour before the game.
And it will almost certainly be Turner.
As it should be.
But almost is not a word thrown by chance.
Berhalter really didn’t have to think about that position when the USMNT reunited in September for their first three of the 14 games they will play in a bid to earn a place in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Turner (above) had brilliantly succeeded in helping the United States win the Gold Cup tournament in early August; Steffen had seen the team through much of the Nations League tournament which the Americans also won, but he was injured late in the final and was substituted for the remainder of regulation time and extra time. . But before El Salvador’s game that opened qualifying, Steffen was hampered by back spasms. So Turner was an obvious choice to start with and threw a shutout. And then Steffen tested positive for COVID-19 before Canada’s game in Nashville, and so the net was Turner’s again, and this time he made a brilliant save early that ultimately contributed to a draw. 1-1, then was solid in a 4-1 road victory over 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 becoming 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 during a conversation with reporters last week. Asked about his “depth chart” in the goal, with the question preceded by a mention of Turner’s recent performance, Berhalter replied, “Matt is an example of taking advantage of his opportunity. He did so during the Gold Cup, and he did it again in the first few games of the qualifying window. But then he tried to regenerate the mystery by saying that the coaches were looking at all the goalkeepers’ club form and previous performances with the ‘National team.
“What I can say is that Matt is doing a great job. We know Zack. We know what he can bring. Sean Johnson is another guy who plays well with NYC, ”Berhalter said. “We feel like we have good coverage, great depth as a goalie.”
Turner, 27, has been the regular starter in the New England Revolution since 2018 and has recorded at least five shutouts each season since. The Revs have been the best team in the league this season, and their reputation soared, further bolstered by their superb shooting saves in all six of the Gold Cup games. He has not allowed any goals in five of the six games.
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Taking him out of the roster now would send a curious message to his teammates, who saw how well Turner has excelled in Steffen’s absence.
Steffen is a talented and accomplished player, and he has more experience helping his teams play at the back, but the move to Manchester City has meant playing less often. The holder of City is the Brazilian Ederson, considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Steffen has played 12 National Cup games in two seasons and once each in the Champions League and Premier League.
He is a capable alternative if Turner were to falter, but there is no indication that such a thing is likely. Berhalter won’t say it until 6:30 a.m. ET Thursday, but while he has options, he has no choice.