For U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter, the process of finding consistent starters is a tough task. One position though that Berhalter should have an easy decision at choosing is goalkeeper.
Zack Steffen is in his first season back domestically in Germany, currently on-loan at Bundesliga outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf. The Manchester City loanee has grabbed the No. 1 job at Dusseldorf, something he’s consistently done with the USMNT. Friday’s friendly against Concacaf rivals Mexico at MetLife Stadium will be another opportunity for Steffen to pad his status as the team’s No. 1.
“I think this is a natural development that we’ve seen from Zack over the last couple of years,” Berhalter said at Thursday’s press conference. “He came in to Columbus and was very raw, but he was very patient and very eager to learn and improve. We saw him improve and he was ready for the next step. Now he’s at the next step and we hope he continues to develop and improve as a player. He’s had a good start to the Bundesliga season and we’ve received positive feedback from his club.”
Steffen’s time as Dusseldorf is only the start of a season-long loan from the reigning English Premier League champions. It’s also his first stint in Germany since his time with Freiburg from 2015-16, in which he did not feature for the senior squad.
Since then, the 24-year-old has won the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and was named to MLS’ Best XI in the same season. He’s also seen a rise in appearances with the USMNT, while working under his former MLS head coach Berhalter on the national stage. Steffen has continued to improve with Dusseldorf, keeping the No. 1 job and playing against some of the world’s top competition.
“Everything happens for a reason, I went to Freiburg for a reason. It taught me a lot of things and it gave me a lot to expect when I came back,” Steffen said. “Being the No. 1 there and getting games every week in the Bundesliga it’s fun and definitely something I don’t take for granted. It’s a good moment for me, but it’s only the start.”
“I definitely learned a lot in Columbus, playing a lot of games there. I learned about myself not only on the field, but also mentally. How to be a true professional too. That has helped me as I take the next step in my club career.”
Friday’s date with Mexico is another chance for Steffen to show his worth to Berhalter and the coaching staff. Despite the lights not being as bright for this contest like the Gold Cup Final, Steffen is remaining positive in regards to the growth of the squad heading into tonight’s match.
“I thought it was a really good stepping stone. For a lot of us it was our first senior tournament, that we were really thrown into,” Steffen said. “We played some good teams and we had some games we could’ve played better. We also had some games that we played well in and we really shined through. Mexico we were a little individualistic when we could’ve played more together as a team.”
Friday’s showdown will be the 70th all-time between the two rivals and the third time Steffen will face Mexico in his short USMNT career so far.