Zack Steffen’s first taste of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s rivalry with Mexico saw him earn a shutout, and also helped him further cement his status as the USMNT’s first-choice goalkeeper heading into the new World Cup qualifying cycle.
With the Tim Howard era over, and the USMNT turning to younger options, Steffen has stepped up and established himself as the program’s top option in goal, ahead of the likes of Bill Hamid, Alex Bono and Ethan Horvath.
His performance against Mexico helped solidify Steffen’s position on the national team depth chart, with his poise in the role shining through.
“He’s got a calming presence. He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” USMNT interim head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He’s sort of moved himself up the ladder, there’s no question about it.”
Steffen has started each of the last three games for the USMNT, conceding three goals in total to France, Brazil, and Mexico. While all three matches were labeled as friendlies, it’s telling that the Columbus Crew goalkeeper has featured in all of them.
“Zack, he’s got a lot of attributes in terms of being a very good goalkeeper,” Sarachan said. “But one of them’s got to be make plays when they are required and keep the ball out of the net in moments that come so he’s been consistent.”
Steffen certainly did just that as he was called into action on various occasions, recording three saves on his way to a shutout over El Tri.
Despite changes to the backline ahead of the Tuesday’s clash, Steffen and his defense seemed to be in sync for most of the match. That really shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering the
“It’s tough to communicate with such a loud crowd behind me, but I thought the guys did well in front of me to keep the chances to a minimum,” said Steffen.
A miscommunication between Steffen and his defense led to Steffen committing a handball outside the penalty area in the 31st minute. The U.S. defense dealt with the ensuing free kick easily, allowing Steffen and the USMNT to escape the threat.
“As a goalkeeper, you’re going to make mistakes,” said Steffen. It’s life, it’s going to happen.”
Steffen had much less to do in the second half against Mexico, with the USMNT taking control of the match, even before the 67th-minute red card issued to Mexican Angel Zaldivar for a vicious tackle on Wil Trapp. The Americans pressed for a winner and found it when Tyler Adams scored his first national team goal.
“We’re at home in Nashville, and it’s 9/11 and we’re playing Mexico, our biggest rival,” Steffen said. “How can you not go for the win.”
With his first win against Mexico in the bag, Steffen can return to focusing on the Columbus Crew’s run at the playoffs. His next chance to play for the USMNT will come in October, with friendlies against Colombia and Peru.