Matt Turner has emerged as an early breakout player in MLS in 2018. The third-year pro went from third-string New England Revolution goalkeeper in his first two seasons, never seeing action in an MLS game, to leapfrogging his way in the depth chart to be the starter under new head coach Brad Friedel.
If the 23-year-old's surprise start isn't turning enough heads, at least one of his teammates is lobbying for him to get a look at an even higher level.
“I think he’s been great," forward Juan Agudelo said at Revolution training on Tuesday. "I’ve always talked to him personally and I told him to stay patient and you’ll get your shot. Everyone knew his quality in training and everyone was always pushing for him to get the shot. This year, he’s taken advantage of that and I’m really happy for him.
"And to me – people might think I’m getting ahead of myself – but to me he’s a national team player, just [by] the way that he trains and some of the saves that he’s making in goal.”
Turner has started six games for New England this year, making 22 saves, stopping a penalty, and posting a 3-2-1 record with two shutouts. He was named to the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi in Week 2 and has made two subsequent Team of the Week benches.
The New Jersey native, who only began playing competitive soccer in high school to stay busy in the basketball and baseball offseasons, gets to learn from one of the best USMNT goalkeepers of all time in Friedel. While the coach is high on his player, he's also emphasizing Turner has a great deal to hone in his game.
“When you start later on in your development, because he did start late, you have to learn some other scenarios that happen – when to speed the game up, when to slow it down, things of that nature, and he’s adapted really well to it all," Friedel said. "He’s got such a level head. He’s like a sponge for learning. Shot-stopping is something that he can do, and he’s now starting to really learn how to dictate the pace of a game. His ability to come out for crosses, as well. We’re just really pleased with him so far.
"We are in a luxury position, because we have three really good goalkeepers. I’ve said it many times – he has to stay on top of his game to keep the number one jersey, because Brad [Knighton] and Cody [Cropper] are excellent.”
What else could help Turner's development? Diego Fagundez admits some assistance on the other end would ease the burden on the 'keeper.
“He kept us in the game [vs. FC Dallas] with a couple awesome saves, and he did a good job on those things. Now, as a forward, we need to try to help him out up there and make sure that there's not a lot of pressure on us. I think in the next game, whoever's up there, we're going to try to do our best to get a goal early, especially when we're away.”