The thought of having your first-choice goalkeeper stuck on the bench and not getting regular playing time might worry some national team coaches, but for Gregg Berhalter, having Zack Steffen join Manchester City next season as a likely back-up would be an opportunity too good to pass up.
According to multiple reports, Steffen is set to return to Manchester City for the 2020/2021 English Premier League season, after having spent a year on loan with Bundesliga club Fortuna Dusseldorf. Another loan seemed a real possibility in order for the 25-year-old U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper to keep getting regular playing time, but all signs point to Steffen joining Pep Guardiola’s setup next season.
As far as Berhalter is concerned, joining Manchester City would be a chance too special for Steffen to pass up, even with the potential for limited playing time.
“Man City is a super high level, right,” Berhalter told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. “To gain that experience for a year, to be in that training environment and have the opportunity to potentially break into that team is exciting, and I think it’d be worth it.
“You always have to weigh if you’re going to be sitting on the bench and not playing enough games, but to me that opportunity alone is something special. Not too many players in the world get a chance to play for one club like that.”
Steffen endure a bittersweet season with Fortuna Dusseldorf, impressing with excellent form as Fortuna’s starter in the first half of the season before persistent knee tendonitis kept him sidelined for most of the second half of the Bundesliga season, which saw Fortuna Dusseldorf relegated.
Acquired by Manchester City from the Columbus Crew in the summer of 2019, Steffen established himself as the USMNT’s first-choice goalkeeper under Berhalter. Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson have been used in place of Steffen when he has been unavailable, and Berhalter expressed confidence in his options at the position.
“I think we have a good group of goalkeepers, when you think about the guys that we have we’ve had in,” Berhalter said. “Our top performers in Major League Soccer, Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath has been in. It’s a strong pool with Brad (Guzan) having World Cup and qualifying experience. I think that helps there.”
Manchester City currently boasts Brazilian national team star Ederson as its first-choice starter in goal, with Chilean national team veteran Claudio Bravo serving as his backup, though Bravo is expected to leave this summer.
Beating out Ederson would be a tall order, but Steffen would also have the benefit of having the chance to train under Guardiola, while being part of a team that will be expected to compete for the English Premier League title and UEFA Champions League.
“We’ll support Zack in any way,” Berhalter said of Steffen’s looming move. “We’ve got to look at games, number of games, right? How does he get games? Right. So Man City, you know, you’ve got a couple options. You can be the number one goalie and you can get a ton of games, you can be the backup goalie and you can get less games. Hopefully they continue to play goalies in cups and other competitions and you can get some games there. Hopefully the national team can feature heavily in his development in that case.”