During the recently-concluded March window of World Cup qualifying, odds are a fully healthy Matt Turner would have helped the US men’s national team reach Qatar 2022, with Manchester City backstop Zack Steffen instead starting the road draw at Mexico, home thumping of Panama and eventual clincher (despite a loss) at Costa Rica.
But a right foot injury has kept the New England Revolution goalkeeper sidelined for all of the 2022 MLS season thus far, shortening his competitive runway stateside before a summertime move to English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal.
Turner clarified the absence during a recent interview at the Revolution’s training ground with Dan Roche of WBZ-TV, Boston’s CBS station. And an initial brief setback stems from the USMNT’s early-February qualifier at Minnesota United FC’s Allianz Field, a 3-0 win that was played in sub-zero conditions.
“Post the game in Minnesota versus Honduras, I developed a bit of tendonitis in my [left] foot,” Turner said. “It was because the tissue on my foot was frozen and I was running back and forth to stay warm. All that running on frozen tissue sort of expedited the process of tendonitis. But that was only like three or four days.”
With a swift recovery period, the 27-year-old joined the Revolution’s preseason camp in southern California and entered a closed-door scrimmage against LAFC. He had logged just one day of training, but wanted to compete again.
“A few minutes into the game, a back pass was left short, I went to clear it and someone left their foot in,” Turner said of the secondary instance. “I cleared the ball, kicked the bottom of their foot and I got a hairline fracture in a small bone in my [right] foot.”
A frustrating development, sure, but Turner was committed to return for New England’s Feb. 26 season opener at the Portland Timbers. He was told rehab would only be two weeks, only for the medical recommendation to change.
“By the time I was able to see the specialist, the specialist said that I needed to be completely off of it, non-weight-bearing on crutches,” Turner said. “It was kind of a kick in the gut because my goal was to be back for every game this season. But then you have to take the rehab one day at a time from there.”
Without the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the Revolution have turned to veteran Earl Edwards Jr. between the posts in the season’s early days. Layer in injuries to first-choice center backs Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler, and New England crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals at Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM and have lost back-to-back games in the league.
Naturally, one would think Turner would patch some defensive frailties that have emerged for the 2021 Supporters’ Shield winners. Within the next few weeks, that likelihood should turn into reality.
“He's making progress,” head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena said this week on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand. “I'd say by the middle of the month he should be back in training. I would think in the month of May he'll be ready to play. He'll be leaving the Revolution at the end of June, so we're hopeful we can get Matt back on the field.”
As Arena noted, Turner has only a few months left with New England before heading overseas to join Arsenal and compete alongside England international Aaron Ramsdale. That move, per MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert, nets the Revolution $6 million initially and can grow to just under $10 million with incentives.
It’s also especially important timing for Turner during a World Cup year, with the USMNT learning Friday they’re drawn into Group B with England, Iran and a European team that’s to be determined (Scotland, Ukraine or Wales). Alongside Steffen, he figures to be fighting for the No. 1 spot.
First comes a return to the field, though. That’s in due course, Turner assures, pending the all-clear from his doctor.
“I’m really eager to get back out onto the field,” Turner said. “I’m itching for it, but I’ve got to take the right precautions.”