But Charlie Davies feels that’s changing, asserting soon-to-be Arsenal netminder Matt Turner has “probably locked himself in as ‘keeper.”
The comments came on Extratime’s latest episode after the New England Revolution standout posted an eight-save shutout in a 3-0 win over Morocco, one of six matches the program plays before arriving on the world’s biggest stage.
“For me, at the moment right now, he’s vaulted himself to one,” Davies claimed.
Davies added Turner also had “one of his better performances with the national team when it comes to building out of the back,” addressing perhaps the biggest critique of the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Turner’s passing qualities are where his main competitor for minutes, Manchester City’s Zack Steffen, arguably has an advantage. It’s also an area Turner aims to improve at the Premier League side, a key test for the 27-year-old as he battles for opportunities alongside Arsenal incumbent Aaron Ramsdale.
Should Turner make further progress with the ball at his feet, will that be enough in manager Gregg Berhalter’s eyes? Extratime’s Andrew Wiebe isn’t so sure.
“I personally hope that he is the No. 1 right now. I think he’s earned it,” Wiebe said of Turner. “I think in the courage to go overseas and make that move and that courage he showed in that game and just his ability as a shot-stopper and his consistency with the US, I think he’s earned it. I don’t know if Gregg Berhalter thinks that way.”
Wiebe added that Steffen’s injury history could help Turner’s case as well. The former Columbus Crew standout isn’t participating in the USMNT’s four-match June window, withdrawing due to family reasons, while the only additional tune-ups arrive during September’s international window at to-be-announced European foes.
As Turner collects first-choice reps with the USMNT, Extratime’s David Gass noted it’s important not to count out another option that just earned top-flight promotion with Nottingham Forest from England’s Championship.
“If Ethan Horvath’s starting in the Premier League, there's every reason to believe he could be the starter as well,” Gass said.
That gets at another issue, where Turner, Steffen and Horvath could all be backups at the club level entering a World Cup. Perhaps a loan(s) emerges for that group, giving them crucial first-team minutes instead of being parked on the bench.
Might that situation open a door for someone like New York City FC captain Sean Johnson, Steffen’s replacement this camp? During Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, color commentator Taylor Twellman referenced a conversation where Berhalter backed the veteran of nearly 350 MLS matches.
“I think all four of them have elements to their game,” Gass said. “Horvath comes off the bench and wins you a Nations League final against Mexico in that stadium against that crowd. Obviously Steffen’s your guy, Turner’s the best shot-stopper in the pool and Sean Johnson is part of the best defense in Major League Soccer. [He] won two penalty-kick shootouts last year as well to win MLS Cup MVP.
“I don’t worry about [the US] if any of the four of them are on the field in one of these group stage games at the World Cup. It’s just trying to see what gives you the best chance to win.”
As for the final word? Davies still thinks Turner’s “case for the No. 1 is only growing and I think come World Cup camp, he will probably be the No. 1 at that point.” Turner now has 12 clean sheets in 17 international appearances.
For more from Extratime, check out the full episode here.