On Feb. 2, Turner had suffered tendonitis during the USMNT's World Cup qualifying match vs. Honduras at Minnesota United's Allianz Field that took place in sub-zero temperatures. He was then injured in a preseason match against LAFC, extending his time on the injury list (foot).
While the 27-year-old didn't need to do much during the Revs' victory, making just three saves, his presence and leadership were felt, guiding Bruce Arena's side to just their second win in seven matches.
“I think he’s an experienced goalkeeper, he plays with a lot of confidence and he gives the guys in front of him a lot of confidence," New England's head coach and sporting director said of Turner's return to action. "And, you know, maybe one of those chances tonight, he had to make a decent save. I think it was in the first half, but for the most part he wasn’t tested a whole lot. But I think he gives the group confidence and it’s a good first game back because he hasn’t played, I believe, since [February]. We’ve been a little bit concerned about rushing him in too early and obviously he showed tonight that he’s pretty comfortable getting back in there.”
While Turner's return will undoubtedly help New England overcome their early-season slump, he's just a temporary fix between the posts. He's set to make a trip over the Atlantic and join English Premier League side Arsenal in late June, leaving him with approximately eight more league fixtures before his departure.
The Revs had turned to Earl Edwards Jr. and Brad Knighton as replacements in the meantime. Yet, meeting the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year's level proved to be a tall task – and factored into their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal exit to Liga MX's Pumas, as well as league struggles.
New England also signed Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic in early April. Turner has been explicit in taking pride in handing the mantel over to the 22-year-old when he jets for the Gunners, mentioning he wants to leave New England in a good spot.
“Passing the torch is kind of like the wrong term in terms of like, I don't know if I necessarily have a torch to pass, right?" said Turner reclaiming comments he made earlier in the week. "I think maybe my self-awareness was a little big-headed there. So, let me come back down from that a little bit and just say that what I've seen from him is that he's really talented. He's way more talented than I was at his age, you know? He's taller than me. He’s athletic. But you know, he's got things that he's going to have to work on if he wants to be a consistent player for this team, as we all do."
Arena similarly has high hopes for Petrovic, as does goalkeeping coach Kevin Hitchcock.
"I’ll tell you this, our other goalkeeper is going to be very good," Arena said. "He is going to be a good one. We are looking forward to seeing him play as well."
World Cup starter?
Especially with the 2022 FIFA World Cup set for November, Turner is clear-eyed on rediscovering the form that's made him push Manchester City's Zack Steffen for the USMNT's No 1 spot. Both jockeyed for the leading role during the Octagonal, where the Yanks placed third behind Mexico and Canada.
Turner is the projected backup behind Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, which could impact his match sharpness. But in New England, he's the unquestioned starter.
"It felt pretty good," said Turner, describing his first start of the 2022 campaign. "I don't think the coaching staff would have put me out there if they didn't like what they saw in training the past – I’ll call it two weeks. So yeah, playing 90 is much different. You know, you're on your feet for a while, you're moving around. But no, I felt good out there. I was ready for the game. The first half did feel like it took forever, but overall happy with how I was feeling, how I performed, and how the team performed, more importantly."
Given the rise Turner's enjoyed in New England since becoming their starter in 2018, he's cherishing every moment of playing for the club that's helped him go from an undrafted free agent out of Fairfield University to a Premier League-bound player.
"It’s been really hard for me to be away from the game, away from this team. I love it here. I love playing here. I love playing soccer in general," Turner said. "It's just a huge piece of my happiness and who I feel like I am as a person, and so to be away from the fans, who I have developed such a close relationship with over the past few seasons – it was really hard to be away from the guys, not really feeling the emotions, all the things that they were going through week in, week out. That was really hard as well.
"So, I kind of felt like an outsider in our own locker room, but getting back out there tonight, I think you saw the full-time whistle everybody sort of coming to me, welcoming me back and, you know, giving me hugs, and all that. It just felt really, really good."