Again in June of 2010, Matt Turner was a 15-year-old highschool baseball participant who solely dabbled in soccer to remain match for the sports activities he most popular. “It was only a interest,” Turner advised Yahoo Sports activities in an interview earlier this week.
Then he unintentionally found the World Cup.
“I couldn’t land a summer time job due to my age, however that meant I used to be dwelling most afternoons, so I believed I’d watch the opening recreation,” Turner mentioned. “When South Africa — this group that I had no funding in — scored, that noise, I bear in mind feeling goosebumps. And that simply type of sparked my curiosity within the event, and I made a decision I used to be gonna watch all of the U.S. nationwide group’s video games.”
Now, little greater than a decade later, the New England Revolution goalkeeper someway is poised to make his worldwide debut for the U.S. in opposition to Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday [7 p.m. ET, FS1], the primary match of 2021 for an American squad determined to return to the planet’s greatest sporting occasion.
How did that occur?
In age of star teenage professionals, Turner is a throwback. As a child, he performed soccer together with baseball, basketball and hockey, however really stop the game earlier than choosing it again up as a 5-foot-4, 150-pound ninth grader at Saint Joseph Regional Excessive College in Montvale, New Jersey. “They by no means let me play within the purpose,” he mentioned of his youth soccer coaches. “And that’s all the time the place I needed to be.”
The freshman group was enjoyable, however that’s so far as Turner’s curiosity went. A diehard New York Yankees fan, he was solely vaguely conscious of Main League Soccer’s New York Purple Bulls. He didn’t know a lot about New Jersey’s lengthy historical past of manufacturing USMNT gamers, together with World Cup goalkeepers Tim Howard and Tony Meola. However through the USA’s run to a Group C victory that summer time, every thing modified.
“Nothing made me really feel the sentiments I felt when the U.S. was enjoying,” Turner mentioned. “The purpose in opposition to England, clearly that counterattack in opposition to Algeria — I used to be screaming at my tv and leaping up and down. When the World Cup ended, I bear in mind questioning what occurred to me over the past month. No different sport that I’d ever watched or performed made me really feel these feelings. That’s type of what bought me into soccer and made me wish to get higher.”
Turner started to observe continuously. He sought out YouTube clips of Howard, Uruguay’s Néstor Muslera and Manchester United nice Peter Schmeichel.
He bought higher, and taller — Turner now stands 6-3 — and as a junior he gained the beginning varsity job at St. Joe’s, a gridiron powerhouse however removed from one in soccer. “I used to be extraordinarily busy as a result of my group wasn’t that good,” Turner mentioned.
The next season he joined a membership group, Clarkstown FC, in neighboring New York State. His purpose was to play within the NCAA, however that was hardly assured. Had Fairfield College goalkeeper coach Javier Decima not taken an opportunity on him, it won’t have occurred in any respect.
“Everybody can see an excellent participant — the exhausting half is discovering those you imagine have potential after which getting that potential out of them,” Decima mentioned. “Matt was very athletic. He had large arms. And since he performed baseball, he was in a position to make use of his footwork to get consistent with the ball and make these large saves. However by way of the sport itself, he lacked the expertise.”
Turner was provided a spot with the Stags, however not a scholarship. He struggled initially. Taking part in the ball along with his ft was a relentless journey. “I couldn’t take my very own purpose kicks till I used to be 18,” he mentioned. In his second season at Fairfield, he made a mistake so egregious the lowlight ended up on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “Most gamers on the faculty degree would by no means come again from that — particularly a goalkeeper,” Decima mentioned.
But Turner did, displaying the psychological power that will assist him take over the beginning job following the commencement of Michael O’Keeffe — who’d backstopped New Zealand’s nationwide group on the 2012 Olympics — and finally catch the attention of the Revs, which signed him in 2016 as an undrafted faculty participant. “Matt’s mindset,” mentioned Decima, “is second to none.”
Turner’s inside drive hasn’t gone unnoticed by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter. “It is evening and day in comparison with final January,” Berhalter mentioned of Turner’s progress whereas talking with reporters Monday. “He had the reflexes, however now his entire recreation is improved. He is gained confidence.”
A very good exhibiting on Sunday would hold Turner firmly within the combine ready of want; whereas Manchester Metropolis’s Zack Steffen is Berhalter’s clear No. 1 goalkeeper, the competitors is huge open after that, with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, Invoice Hamid and Ethan Horvath all jockeying for spots. The 2022 World Cup is now on the horizon, with the Individuals’ qualifying scheduled to start in September. Ought to they make it, three keepers will journey to Qatar.
“It does really feel like there’s numerous alternative,” Turner mentioned. “I can’t look too far sooner or later and begin fascinated with all these prospects — simply to be with the nationwide group proper now means lots to me — however being a part of a World Cup squad completely is the top purpose.”
Extra from Yahoo Sports activities: