UPDATE (6:50 pm ET): Paul Arriola suffered an injury in warm-ups ahead of the game against Costa Rica and was replaced in the US lineup by Tim Weah.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gregg Berhalter has renewed competition for the US men’s national team’s starting goalkeeper role, replacing Matt Turner with Zack Steffen in Wednesday’s massive Concacaf Octagonal World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
It’s one of a few notable lineup decisions for the crucial contest at Lower.com Field, with young center back Chris Richards, like Steffen, making his World Cup Qualifying debut. Richards, a product of FC Dallas' academy who's now at Hoffenheim on loan from Bayern Munich, will line up at center back alongside Atlanta United's Miles Robinson.
In all, there are nine changes from the lineup that lost 1-0 in Panama on Sunday. With an average age of 22 years, 229 days, the starting lineup is the youngest fielded by the USMNT in a World Cup Qualifying match, beating the XI that began against Honduras last month.
But the goalkeeping switch is likely to command the lion’s share of discourse, considering the crucial importance of keeping a clean sheet against the defensively rugged Ticos, who like the Yanks have conceded just three goals across their first four qualifiers and are expected to sit deep and lie in wait for counterattacking opportunities.
“In general what I'd say is that we're very confident in all three of our goalies in camp,” said Berhalter at the start of the current international window, declining to confirm his starter before last week’s win over Jamaica. “They've all done extremely well this season when they played, and they’re a big part of what we're doing. So it's going to be a difficult choice, but we're confident and comfortable that we'll make the right one.”
While it’s the first Octagonal appearance for Steffen, it's hardly his first big game for the States. The Pennsylvania native, who spent time in the earliest incarnation of the Philadelphia Union youth system before stints with the University of Maryland, SC Freiburg and the Columbus Crew, has 23 USMNT caps and last represented the USMNT in the Concacaf Nations League semifinal and final earlier this year.
Steffen is considered by many to have stronger distribution skills than Turner but has played just two competitive matches for Manchester City this season: the English Community Shield in August and a 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers on Sept. 21.
The US go into Wednesday's game in second place in the Octagonal. The top three teams will qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with the fourth-placed team entering a playoff.