How USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner landed at the World Cup

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RAYYAN, Qatar – Matt Turner was the first player for the United States in the World Cup on Monday and, barring unforeseen circumstances, he will hold the position for Friday’s strike. against England and as long as the men’s team is still in the competition.

How improbable is all this? Let him explain.

“I have made my point. It’s crazy — bananas even,” Turner said. “It’s something you wouldn’t want to write about because it would be like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t make sense. That’s not real.’ It’s a pretty good story compared to the people I share the locker room with every day and their growth through the game. It’s a unicorn.”

Consider: He didn’t start playing soccer until he was 16 and never played for a youth team. He played at a shadow school (Fairfield University) and was ignored in the MLS draft. His pro debut came with the lower-tier Richmond Kickers. He didn’t make his senior team debut until 22 months ago, at the age of 26.

“I just hope it’s going to teach somebody one day, if they’re working or not playing sports or thinking it’s time to do some sports or whatever,” Turner said. in their lives, they can still be successful,” Turner said.

Turner is a late-bloomer who has been patient, and his journey has taken him in the last six months from the New England Revolution to the Premier League leader Arsenal and, in a few weeks, important role in the World Cup.

He became the latest in a long line of American athletes who have found homes in top European teams while advancing to the world team, joining Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard .

“I coached Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, a player who played really well [in the Premier League]and Matt can grow to that level,” said Revolution Coach Bruce Arena, the second manager in the US World Cup. “Arsenal got themselves a very good player.”

A closer look at the USMNT roster

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Six years ago, the expectation was that Turner and Zack Steffen would vie for the American starting job. But when Coach Gregg Berhalter announced the roster two weeks ago, Steffen wasn’t on it.

Berhalter did not elaborate, but people familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said Berhalter considered Turner to be his No. 1 guard. 1 and Sean Johnson wrote the No.

He then decided Ethan Horvath would be the best to step in for Turner on short notice, if necessary. Horvath entered the competition in the 2021 Concacaf Nations League final, saving the match, and was a late winner in Nottingham Forest’s promotion to the Premier League last spring.

With the job clearly stated ahead of the World Cup, Turner made a stunning save in the Group B opener against Wales before Gareth Bale converted the spot-kick in the 82nd minute for a 1-1 draw. He followed Bale’s shot, but because he was hit with the venom and streaking away from him, he could only manage to touch the face.

The Americans must defeat England on Friday or Iran next Tuesday to have a chance to advance to the round of 16.

For Turner, the job starting Monday marked a milestone year. In February, as Turner was preparing to start his fifth season at MLS, the Revolution agreed to sell him to Arsenal for at least $6 million, to be used in June.

Before joining the Gunners, he started two of America’s four matches, adding to a record that includes eight starts in 14 World Cup matches in 2021-22. (Steffen started elsewhere.)

Turner hasn’t played much at Arsenal. In the playoffs, he was a backup to Aaron Ramsdale, who made England’s World Cup team.

Turner started Arsenal’s first four matches in the UEFA Europa League – the country’s second-tier competition – but missed the last two with a hamstring injury. The Gunners won the group and advanced to the round of 16 in March.

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

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“What I find difficult is that sometimes, as a player, training is more difficult than playing,” he said of the important role. “In training, you see hundreds of actions every session, and you can’t do it very often. It’s hard, mentally and physically. It can be hard to see how far you’ve come if you don’t have a gauge of what it’s like in the game. “

The US men’s national team Coach Gregg Berhalter has young talent with experience in the top European teams, but not in the international competition. (Photo: Joshua Carroll/Washington Post)

It is different in New England, where, after returning from a loan to Richmond, he is the first to start in 2018.

“Week in week out in New England, it didn’t matter what I did in training,” he said. “I’m going to play, and the games have become my model. So I think it’s all about how you approach the situation you’re in.”

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

Outlook: The draw was good for the USMNT. But sometimes, ‘good’ isn’t good enough.

“If you don’t take it for a day, you’ll soon find out,” he said. “I don’t want to be one of those people who get to know.”

Turner learned a lesson at a special workshop.

“I threw the ball, and I found myself frustrated and upset,” he said. Manager Mikel Arteta “left me and the beginning was like, ‘I don’t want to see that. I don’t like the reaction. I want to see you pick yourself up and go on.’

“I think that set the tone for me mentally in the club, and just keep going, no matter what. If you fail, that’s all. That’s important. worry about what you will do, not about the failure itself.”

The American football team will face Wales, Iran and the likes of England in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Photo: Joshua Carroll/Washington Post)

Turner also learned to enjoy English football.

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“It’s different than the sport in the United States,” he said. “They admire you for the little things you can do. The small nuances of the game are interesting. It’s like an interactive session, and the opinions of the fans really follow the opinions of the game. That’s really cool. Some sports in America are written. They told you about the screen what to say, when things in the Premier League – and in football – could be a little better. “

England, who know the weight of expectations, opened the World Cup looking beautiful

Despite not having a full-time job, Turner supports his national team. Berhalter turned to him in September for the last two World Cup matches. Amid disappointing team performances against Japan and Saudi Arabia, Turner was a bright spot.

As long as Turner is healthy when training camp opens, he will start against Wales.

It’s a long way from a sleeper bus ride to Richmond’s away match five years ago.

“Looking at my story, I hope kids can see the way there is,” Turner said. “A man from the New England Revolution, who two, three years ago, people didn’t believe even doing business with Arsenal, is starting the season with Arsenal.”

And now, in the World Cup, too.

World Cup in Qatar

Live updates: European powers take center stage Wednesday in Qatar, where World Cup group games continue. Follow the latest news, updates and important.

USMNT: In their return to the World Cup, the young Americans were held to a 1-1 draw against Wales in their Group B opener. The U.S. men’s national team will face a higher task on Friday against Group B favorite England, which destroyed Iran, 6-2, earlier on Monday.

Qatar controversy: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, have said they are refusing to enter World Cup stadiums and have been challenged by members of the public to remove the symbol.

Group guide: The American football team, led by Coach Gregg Berhalter and star Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement from its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a closer look at how all the teams in each group stack up.

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