CINCINNATI – Matt Turner knows about the risks.
He knows how difficult it will be to earn playing time at mighty Arsenal, how difficult a transfer overseas can be. He’s heard the concerns among US men’s national team fans and pundits that he and two of his fellow goalkeepers are staring at limited minutes in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar.
“Those same people are probably the ones that were saying that because I play in MLS, I don’t deserve to play for the national team,” Turner told reporters at a media availability in downtown Cincinnati on Monday before the USMNT’s first match of their portentous June camp, against Morocco on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN).
“So it’s hard for me to swallow all the things that people say from time to time. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to put my best foot forward. I think it’s definitely a step up for me, and I’m going to take this as far as I can do it.”
By “this,” Turner means his whole unlikely adventure with soccer, the sport he picked up very late in his adolescence by modern standards, only to turn out to be quite good at it. And even though staying with the New England Revolution might possibly give him an inside track in the competition with Zack Steffen (Manchester City) and Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) for the national team’s starting job, he sounds certain that this is the time to leap into the English Premier League.
“Well, I've been playing pretty well in MLS for the better part of three years now. And given the environment of transfers for goalkeepers in particular, this is the first real interest, first real offer that I've had,” the New Jersey native explained. “And I've been trying to make things happen for quite some time. So it seemed like the right time for me.
“Being a week in, week out starter in MLS didn't guarantee me to be a starter here for the national team, and going to the World Cup, I obviously want to play games. So I need to shake things up in my club career and I think this is a positive step forward, for me in the long term and in the immediate future.”
Turner says he’ll play one more match for the Revs after this international window (June 19 home to Minnesota United FC), then jet across the Atlantic on June 21 to begin his Arsenal career in earnest. His wife Ashley, who is pregnant with their first child, is already en route to London to dive into the relocation process while Matt is with the national team.
“I still have a little business to take care of over in Foxborough, one more game,” said Turner. “I’m hoping that it'll be a nice little send-off and I can say bye to the fans and people that are so close to my heart, that really welcomed me to the area. It's pretty emotional, though, overall, with everything because it's where I first became a professional.
“It's where I became a man. It's where I fell in love. It's where I got married. It's where I found out I was having my first child. So a lot of firsts in that area. And it's going to be tough to leave behind, for sure. But I think I'm ready. I know who I am. And I know I'm ready for a new challenge.”
Already a Cinderella story with his unheralded climb from undrafted rookie to US international, he’ll have to push his own limits yet again to earn a prominent role with the Gunners while competing with incumbent Aaron Ramsdale. And he’s just fine with betting on himself.
“I'm going to have an entire preseason to get comfortable, learn the system, learn the ropes. And I think there's going to be a pretty busy fixture list in the beginning of the season. So I'm looking forward to the opportunities that will present themselves and I just want to showcase the best of my ability,” he said. “For me, I've always wanted to just get out there and see how far I can take this thing. That has always been my goal for football, for soccer. And so I'm going to take it a step further into the Premier League and we'll see how it goes for me.
“It’s the sport that I love and I never thought that I’d be in the shoes that I’m in. So I’m playing with house money, and I’m going to just go for it.”