For Zack Steffen, the time is now.
“I’m at a level where I need to be pushed,” Steffen told Andrew Wiebe on ExtraTime Radio. “The national team, we found a coach and we’re at a time now where our talented youth need to get pushed and go overseas and feel a little bit uncomfortable. I’m feeling this is my time.”
If the deal with Manchester City is finalized, Steffen will be going to Europe for the second time in his young career. After two years at the University of Maryland, Steffen went to Germany where he first spent time with SC Freiburg II before becoming Freiburg’s third-choice goalkeeper.
But now Steffen is older — he’s 23 — and more experienced, both for club and country. He started 63 regular season games for Crew SC over the last two years and was named the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Meanwhile, Steffen has put himself in the running for top choice goalkeeper of the US men’s national team, earning six caps.
“Being a goalkeeper, being 23 years old, there’s so much you can learn,” Steffen said. “You can never be perfect in your craft and being a goalkeeper, in this day and age, there’s so many different characteristics to it. In my mind I need to work on each and every aspect of goalkeeping, and I need to grow off the field and be put in an uncomfortable position where my family is far away.”
Steffen is also excited to continue to work with Gregg Berhalter, who on Sunday was named USMNT coach, though he was quick to point out he’ll still have to earn his spot.
“It’s great to have him as our nation’s head coach,” Steffen said. “He’s going to push the youth and he’s going to give us a plan and a system and he’s going to demand a lot from his coaching staff and the players.”
One of Steffen’s greatest attributes is his shot-stopping ability, including in penalty-kick shootouts. He showcased that in consecutive Knockout Round victories over Atlanta United and D.C. United.
When asked if there was one player competing in MLS Cup Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN 1/3/5, TVAS) who was especially dangerous from the spot, Steffen pointed toward Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez with his unorthodox lead-up.
“He does that little weird PK run-up and kicks it either way convincingly and gets the goalkeeper diving the other way every time. It’s pretty impressive,” Steffen said. “The whole run-up kind of throws you off and then the hop gets you because you think he can only really shoot it one way because the hop takes his momentum out, and he ends up going the other way.”