When Matt Turner began contemplating a future in soccer, his credentials were limited to starting goalkeeper for the junior varsity team at St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, N.J. Turner drew inspiration from watching the United States play in the 2010 World Cup, but it seemed a long shot he would progress to a professional career, much less perform in the international arena.
“The reason I got into soccer in the first place was the World Cup run in 2010, it’s what ignited me to become passionate about this game,” said Turner, a candidate to be the starting goalkeeper for the US national team for a game against Trinidad & Tobago in Orlando, Fla., Sunday. “And 11 years later, to be able to have the chance to wear the crest on a match day is nothing short of a dream come true.”
Turner’s progress has been remarkable, considering three years ago he appeared slated for a third-string role with the Revolution. Turner began the 2018 preseason behind Cody Cropper and Brad Knighton on the depth chart but by Opening Day, coach Brad Friedel installed him in the starting lineup.
“Getting a new coaching staff opened the door for a kid that might’ve been seen as some no-name kid from a no-name college [Fairfield University] that we took a chance on,” Turner said during a conference call Monday. “So it was a really good opportunity for me to get in front of people who didn’t know anything about my background and show them what I could do.”
But Turner returned to the bench as the Revolution went on a nine-game winless streak in 2018, and he did not regain the starting role until the next season, his re-emergence coinciding with the Revolution’s rally under Bruce Arena. Turner helped the Revolution advance to the playoffs in successive seasons, finishing second in the voting for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year last season.
Turner earned a call-up a year ago, when US national team camp was shortened because of travel restrictions.
“I’m more comfortable with the style of play, expectations of the goalkeepers with the national team,” Turner said. “Just more games under my belt with the Revolution has been super helpful. The way you get here is to play well with your club so I definitely think I’ve played a lot better this January camp. I was more myself.”
Turner being himself means displaying good positioning, spectacular shot-stopping ability, take-charge leadership qualities. And his play has impressed US national team coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Matt certainly has improved, I think it’s night and day compared to last January camp,” Berhalter said. “I think he had the reflexes last January but now his whole game has improved and you can see he has gained confidence. He’s looking sharp and in the games he’s made some big saves, and that’s really a hallmark of what we know Matt’s been able to do, is big-save ability. He needs to continue to work with his feet, but he’s doing a great job and we’re really happy with him.”
Things have moved fast for Turner, 26, who was on the US bench for two Nations League matches last year.
“For me, it’s focusing on what I’ve learned over the past 2-3 weeks and showing the coaching staff I’m someone they can rely on on the international stage,” Turner said. “And, honestly, after that is when I’ll be able to reflect on my journey and how much it’s meant to me.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.