Every World Cup save matters. That’s the position Park Ridge, N.J. native Matt Turner may again find himself in for the American World Cup team Friday and Tuesday in Qatar.
The Bergen County goalkeeper was stellar as the U.S. tied Wales 1-1 in the opening contest Monday. More importantly, his US Men’s National Soccer Team earned one point in the three-game first-round competition on soccer’s highest stage.
MATTY FANTASTIC pic.twitter.com/fKu0Sl6HY1
— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 21, 2022
It was a valued point (a win is three points, a loss is zero) in the global soccer summit, which sports heightened American interest with the presence of a U.S. team. Turner, along with Medford midfielder Brenden Aaronson (the “Medford Messi”) also enhance the World Cup enjoyment for New Jersey fans.
Turner, USMNT World Cup Group B watch
The 28-year-old Turner, a veteran among one of the youngest World Cup teams, is a solid force. He is also grounded by life experience, becoming a father this past June. Turner acts like a leader on the field, a valued asset for younger players. A seasoned performer, strengthened by hurdles he cleared to reach high school, college, professional and international competition, Turner relishes the World Cup hot seat.
And in this format, every save matters because goal differential will decide which team reaches the next round if two teams are tied. This is why a close loss to England on Friday would not be a knockout blow to the United States. England already defeated Iran 6-2, putting that team in peril for a tiebreak.
It is a possibility that the United States and Wales will go to a tiebreak. If so, how closely each team plays England will be a key.
How to watch USMNT World Cup games:
All of the American team games are televised by Fox.
Iran plays Wales Friday at 5 a.m. (FS1) When the American team takes the field at 2 p.m., it will know Wales’ goal differential after two games. People can then follow on Tuesday, when the United States-Iran game occurs simultaneously with England against Wales at 2 p.m.
Amid the excitement, Turner is at the center of it all, continuing a path that prepared him for this role
Turner, USMNT Word Cup performance vs. Wales
Turner represented the United States and New Jersey well. First, he handled the basics in a game for which goalies don’t have to make many saves.
Turner’s major responsibility is directing traffic, throwing outlet passes to teammates, working the ball upfield or kicking the ball well past midfield to relieve pressure.
He nearly stole a victory for a team trying to protect a 1-0 lead.
Wales didn’t get a shot on goal until the 64th minute, but it was a great scoring chance. Wales’ Ben Davies directed a point-blank header toward the top corner of the net. With a beautifully-timed leap, Turner used all of his 6-foot-3 frame to knock it over the crossbar. It was a highlight-reel stop.
That would have been a game saver, but the United States gave up a penalty shot, always a near-certain tally, to Wales captain Gareth Bale with eight minutes left.
A goalie’s only chance is to dive to one side, hoping he guessed right and that he can cut down the angle. Turner did guess right and actually touched the goal that tied the game, but the shot had too much force.
The American team, back on its heels for the last few minutes, salvaged a tie.
If Turner is named the starter on Friday, his task will be to keep the United States close against the best team in the bracket. If he is named the starter on Monday, it will likely be as a win-and-you’re in game.
This is the type of pressure Turner may be suited for.
Who is Matt Turner?
From his Jersey roots, he has ascended steadily, year by year.
Turner grew up 25 miles from Manhattan. At age 14, he took up soccer to stay in shape for baseball and basketball at St. Joseph High School in Montvale. His first promotion came in a next-man-up situation, as another netminder for his freshman team was injured.
Turner finally made the varsity team as a junior. He couldn’t attract college interest, but a highlight reel sent by his father Stu to Fairfield University in Connecticut produced a tryout. And he thrived, making the All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference second team during his senior year.
At every turn, he simply battered through resistance. Turner wasn’t taken in the 2016 MLS draft, but the New England Revolution signed him after he impressed them in a tryout.
It took him three years to become the team’s No. 1 goalie, but when he got the spot, he put a vice grip on it. Turner progressed so far that he was the MLS 2021 Goalkeeper of theYear.
That path propelled him to Arsenal in the English Premier League, the most revered league in global soccer. From there, it led to the World Cup.
Turner is playing the best soccer of his life. And that’s what the American team will need.