ATLANTA — Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen had the game of his life at just the right time.
Before leading his team to victory in a penalty-kick shootout against Atlanta United, Steffen came up with eight saves in the first 120 minutes of the match. During the shootout, he notched two more saves to secure the victory and secure a spot for his team in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against New York City FC.
“We wanted to shut that crowd up, and we did,” Steffen said after the match. “I mean it’s been a long season. There’s been a lot of games, so each experience you learn. Towards the end of the season, you kind of get into form. Right now, I feel good and the guys in front of me are playing well. I’ve got to keep the team in the game.”
“I think he played a great game, he stayed calm, he was focused,” said Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter, before mentioning he’d sung Steffen’s praises the day before the match.
“We met with the production crew yesterday and they asked me, ‘What has been the most surprising thing this season so far?’” Berhalter said. “I mentioned Zack. His poise, his calm and his performance, for being such a young player, is really special to see. Today is no exception.”
Zack Steffen on Columbus Crew SC mentality: We wanted to make a statement
Steffen said preparation in training helped him during the penalty shootout.
“I just had a good feeling about kind of where [Atlanta were] going,” he said. “Once you pick a side, you’ve just got to go all out. Fortunately, I was able to come up with one or two. I had a good feeling. I knew our guys were going to put them away. As long as I make one or two, it’s ours.”
“You always say, ‘weathering the storm,’ and I thought we did a great job of weathering every storm that came through,” said Crew SC midfielder and captain Wil Trapp. “Ultimately it comes down to a shootout and Zack makes a couple saves, we put a couple away and that’s the difference.”
Trapp praised Steffen for his “composure, making the right passes out of the back and then obviously making saves," adding that "his development this year has been pretty fantastic.”