Six years ago, Matt Turner turned up for a preseason trial with the New England Revolution. The unheralded, undrafted and unknown goalkeeper from Fairfield University was given a chance to win a roster spot.
Turner didn’t get many chances growing up. He wasn’t some big-time United States youth international. Hell, he only started playing soccer at 14 years old, initially just to stay in shape for other sports. He knew with every opportunity, there might not be another chance.
Taking chances has become the defining theme of Turner’s improbable career that has reached inconceivable heights since deciding to put on the goalkeeper gloves in high school.
A new apex will soon arrive, as he’ll be putting on those gloves to kick off his first training session with English Premier League giants Arsenal.
“It’s been an insane ride,” Turner told media Friday on a virtual press conference.
Is Matt Turner the USMNT's No. 1 keeper?
Turner will make one more appearance for the Revs, this Sunday against Minnesota United FC (5 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). It’s his farewell match at Gillette Stadium. He was with the USMNT for their June window but returns for a final game before he heads to London. A fan favorite, Turner is delighted to have the chance to play in Foxboro one more time.
“I’m just focused on saying goodbye to these fans who hold a special place in my heart," Turner said. "They welcomed me to this team, made me feel like a superstar even when I was playing [at USL League One's] Richmond [Kickers]. It’s been tough with COVID, not getting the chance to be with them one-on-one, signing autographs as frequently. I hope Sunday we’ll rectify all that and leave on good terms.”
Turner, who turns 28 next week, got the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and earned an MLS Best XI spot as the Revs won last year's Supporters' Shield in record-breaking fashion (73 points).
It was yet another high point after Turner slowly climbed the depth chart from out on loan, to third-string to backup and finally the starter – only to briefly retreat back to the bench towards the end of ex-manager Brad Friedel’s tenure.
“I’m a product of how I was brought up,” Turner said. “I came to soccer late, so I’ve had to prove myself every single day. I had the deck stacked against me, I didn’t have opportunities come flying at me all of the time. … That’s been some of the toughest challenges because not many doors were opened for me, but it’s also one of my greatest strengths because whenever those opportunities presented themselves, I was ready.”
Matt Turner Reflects Ahead of His Move to Arsenal
Turner got his chance with the USMNT at the beginning of 2021 then played a starring role at the 2021 Gold Cup, backstopping a title charge over Mexico and being named Goalkeeper of the Tournament. Now, he's got 13 clean sheets in 18 international appearances and was key during Concacaf's World Cup qualifying pathway.
Last winter, Arsenal took notice and turned their interest into official transfer offers, agreeing on a deal with New England in January that kept him in MLS through June. Turner, a boyhood Arsenal fan, achieved his dream.
The transfer nets New England around $6 million initially and can grow to just under $10 million with incentives, per sources. The club's already brought in once-capped Serbian international Djordje Petrovic as a built-in replacement for Turner.
“The ironic part of the transfer is that Arsenal is his favorite team,” head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena said. “It was clearly something he wanted to do. We felt there was a certain number that needed to be met so it all worked out. We’re so pleased it worked out for Matt, as well as our club and Arsenal.”
Turner is expected to be the second-choice 'keeper at Arsenal behind England international Aaron Ramsdale, which would likely mean he’ll play cup competitions and perhaps even some European games. It's a delicate spot with the Qatar 2022 World Cup just five months away, an EPL situation that potentially awaits USMNT teammates Zack Steffen (Manchester City) and Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) as well.
Arsenal, led by manager Mikel Arteta, are in the Europa League group stages after finishing fifth in the Premier League's 2021-22 campaign.
“Arsenal have gotten themselves a very good goalkeeper,” Arena said.
“I can’t wait for this opportunity, it’s surreal,” Turned added.
He's just a guy from New Jersey, taking another chance to expand this wild ride to new heights.
“Everything worked out the way it was supposed to,” Turner said.