"Big play" Matt Turner proving to be Gold Cup difference-maker for USMNT

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As the US men's national team were getting ready for the roll of the dice of a penalty-kick shootout in the Gold Cup quarterfinals against Canada, interim head coach B.J. Callaghan knew he was in good hands with Matt Turner.

Not just because of how the Arsenal goalkeeper mentally prepares for those high-pressure situations, but also how much of a leader the former New England Revolution star is among a young group.

So, for Callaghan, it was no surprise to see Turner make two saves in the shootout while being the calming presence that helped the USMNT advance to the semifinals 3-2 on PKs after a 2-2 draw through 120 minutes Sunday evening at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.

“With Matt, I didn't have to say much. He goes right into his preparation mode,” Callaghan said postgame. “He has a great team of people that are preparing him for the penalty kick shootout. He's going to be prepared and that's what he was focused on. And then he had the last word before we went out to midfield. It's just encouraging the guys to stay calm, stay committed to what they've practiced.”

On a team full of young players looking to earn additional minutes and ultimately make the World Cup team in 2026, Turner was the established player, the unquestioned No. 1 'keeper, and he played like it Sunday night when he was called upon to do so.

Turner didn’t make a save through 120 minutes, but he was beaten from the penalty spot by Steven Vitória in second-half stoppage time to force extra time. He won the second duel, getting a hand on the center back’s attempt in the first round of the PK shootout, setting the tone for what was to come.

“The first one felt really, really good because I wish I stopped his [in second-half stoppage time],” Turner told FOX’s Jenny Taft after the match. “I wanted to stay in the middle in the end of the game and last minute, I felt like he was gonna whip it so I dove to my right. I was frustrated. So this time, I knew I was just going to try to hold and I came up with a really good save.”

Turner also dived to deny Liam Fraser in the second round.

“He's a really settling force at the back for the US,” Canada coach John Herdman said. “He’s got wonderful feet. His game management's very good. And he can save penalties.”

Herdman said there was no team the Canadians wanted to play more in this Gold Cup than the US, especially after losing in the Nations League final less than a month earlier. And Les Rouges were close to a first-ever win on US soil when Nashville SC winger Jacob Shaffelburg put a deflected shot past Turner in extra time.

But the US leveled on an own-goal a mere five minutes later and advanced thanks to Turner’s heroics in the shootout. It was a crushing exit, but there was a lot Herdman liked from his young side.

“Really proud of my lads, I thought tonight they dug in," he said. “They showed quality at times and I think we were able to test our depth as a Canadian squad, ensure that there's depth for 2026.”

The US are proving in this Gold Cup they, too, have depth going forward. And they're backstopped by arguably the region’s top goalkeeper.

“He just makes big plays,” Callaghan said. “He started in the Jamaica game. He's the captain right now leading us and those are the moments you expect big players to step up.”