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Berhalter sees Steffen’s looming Manchester City move as “Something special”

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.”


  1. Regarding Horvath, first he has not lost his #1 position at multiple clubs. He has only played for two clubs and just recently lost out to Mignolet at Brugge. While at Molde he not only played well in league, he won best 11 during a group stage of the Europa League. In fact, he has excelled in international league play. This is from Wikipedia about his play for Brugge, the year before Brugge got Mignolet: “Horvath began on the bench for Club Brugge in the 2018–19 season behind Croatian international goalkeeper Karlo Letica, but Horvath soon regained the starting job. Horvath posted a trio of consecutive clean sheets against AS Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, and Atlético Madrid in Champions League group stage play while notching eleven total saves. He was named as the goalkeeper for Goal’s best XI of the 2018–19 Champions League group stage.[22]” Horvath is looking for another club and could end up as a #1 in a decent setting. As for Steffen, he is still young for a GK (as is Horvath), being only 25, so I don’t think it will necessarily be a bad thing if he’s at Man City next season. They will be playing so many games that it is almost a certainty that he could start a dozen or so minimum. Colomb ia has a decent national team and their #1 GK spent a lot of years as backup at Arsenal. There is also the possibility that Man City, after showcasing Steffen in Cup play, could sell him to another EPL club and he could have a nice career at a mid-level club like Tim Howard at Everton.

    • He has actually lost it at Club Brugge more than once though. He was the starter for the last four matches of 16/17 and first 14 matches of 17/18. Then didn’t dress for a big stretch of that season before starting the final 3 games. Then lost the job to Letica who they had bought from Split. Wikipedia is overselling him a bit he’s dressed 4 times for Croatia but never played at the NT level. He’s been playing for SPAL in Serie A since the restart giving up 2+ a game but the club is bad and being relegated, loan expires at the end of season. If your Brugge and you have the option to sign Mignolet you have to sign or your competition in the league would have. That’s not a slight on Horvath, Simon has 245 EPL appearances plus 23 caps he’d have a ton more if not for Courtois. I don’t see the slight that others do from GB either. If you look at the timeline, Ethan was called at the first chance under GB March of 19. Was in the prelim roster for a GC but had an injury. Then in the fall he wasn’t called. Gregg has talked repeatedly about not flying in players from Europe if they aren’t going to play much because it upsets the club and they lose training. I think he was likely on the roster for March since it was in Europe but that didn’t happen.

      • I am curious how upset Brugge is, and how much training Horvath loses, WHEN HE IS THEIR BACKUP. He would get him busy and maybe a half of game minutes and that would be improvement over SITTING. Berhalter is great at vague statements of principle that are actually counter-productive and weaken the talent on hand for games. If we would have Dempsey in regardless if Spurs benches him, it should be no different for other capped players who have some good NT games in the bank.

    • People are ignoring what I think is pretty darn important about Horvath. He was outstanding in both Europa League and Champions League. To not give up a goal against Monaco, Dortmund, and Athletico Madrid, even if they played defensively, is an outstanding achievement. I think it unlikely that the US will play 3 teams that good in a row very often and almost impossible that we could play 3 teams like that and keep a clean sheet. Brugge is not exactly a European power, so Horvath must have been outstanding..I’m not saying he should be a starter, but he should be called in and should be considered as the US #2 given Guzan’s age.

  2. And yet Guzan started for years in the Premier League. Horvath has done nothing, proved nothing by comparison. You’re confused and out of place, and unequivocally not imperative.

  3. If Berhalter has a call he will make the wrong one. Based on Bravo’s use this season, Steffen as backup would get a handful of league games and then start the cup matches with the B team. For that matter, he has been injured a lot lately including finishing the season with a MCL issue, hasn’t been dominant for the NT lately, and it’s kind of like why do GB’s only choices seem to be him or Guzan? To me we should be be fostering roster competition at keeper to get someone in the net who can play out of his mind and steal some results like Keller and Howard used to. To me Steffen is a victim of the subsequent mentality where we pick the winners before they hit the field instead of winning jobs by play.

    • Steffen was 2018 MLS GK of the Year and on the Best XI and All-Star team. This fall he was named to the Best XI of the week and was near the top of the Bundesliga in saves before his injuries. I’m not sure what else he has to prove to you, but clearly you know more about football than Pep Guardiola.

      • You mean Pep that shipped him out to Fortuna??? You mean Pep that has him pegged as a backup?? City is running distant second last I checked. He is bright but Europe also is biased on Americans.

      • You confuse he used to be on a hot streak and was strong in MLS for a bit, with he is the form goalkeeper of the moment who shows up for the Nats. The Nats’ form for years now has been we win what we should and lose what we should. I look at NT form to decide who should start for the NT. He’s merely OK for the NT and has in fact been responsible for some counter-attacks by poor passing. I want someone who stands on his head to win us games we maybe shouldn’t have. Maybe he’s that guy if motivated. I am not sure he’s that guy with it gift-wrapped. You understand club snobbery. You don’t understand how to compose a winning soccer team regardless what other coaches think.

      • So form matters for Steffen but not for Horvath? Ethan is 1-2-1, beat Cuba cost us the match against Portugal, lost to Italy, and tied Chile. It was Steffen in goal that stood on his head against France, and was in the nets the last time we beat Mexico.

      • You’re confused. Apples to apples. I know Horvath can play USMNT. I then care less what he does in club. I know Steffen is supposed to be hot club stuff. But his USMNT play is merely OK recenttly, and he’s been out hurt twice. OK, apples to apples is NATIONAL TEAM FORM. I mean, in trying to figure out who to play on the National Team, I might be more concerned with how they played this cycle FOR THAT SAME TEAM. To distract back to club play is basically to wipe that performance slate and go back to scouting. Scouting is over. We know who they are. The question is who is the best player actually in the 1 shirt. Not who in theory SHOULD be. We would get a lot better at the NT level if we focused on how people played for the NT itself, instead of picking club snob all star teams of players who don’t play like they are supposed to.

    • Huge difference between playing behind one of the top 5 keepers in the world for one of the best managers in the world, likely getting 10-20 matches including CL fixtures to Horvath sitting behind Mignolet and not even getting Belgian cup games.

      • Horvath has some cap history where he should get some credit for how he’s played in the shirt. And subtlely when he did play this year he had 3 wins in 3 games with 1 goal allowed. You act like it’s a discredit to be behind Mignolet. That’s a world class keeper. That’s not his fault. FWIW even if you pulled this Steffen comparison, we carry THREE keepers. I giggle at Guzan, Johnson, Hamid, etc. must be better. GB hasn’t even given him a chance to beat those guys. In Horvath’s 4 games in the NT shirt he allowed 3 goals, no more than 1 a night, to Italy Portugal Chile. I have watched Guzan ship that many in one night to teams no better than that.

      • Horvath has 4 caps including a start for GB against Chile. He was going to be called for GC but got injured. Then do you call him in the fall right after he’d lost job and when he’d have time at his club to try to prove his worth during those weeks of training. It’s interesting how you completely forget his howler against Portugal.

      • Horvath had a howler. Guzan will give up 3-4 goals in a bad game. Get some perspective. Geez.

    • Big concern with Horvath is that he has now lost his #1 position at multiple clubs. I know Mingolet is a solid keeper, but he is also expensive by Belgian league standards. I do not think they would have pursued him if they were very confident in Horvath.

      For Steffen this move isn’t great. A guy his age needs consistent games. He may get 10ish games in cup competitions barring an injury to Ederson.

      • I think Horvath is making dumb career choices. I think the NT gets self defeating stupid when it ostracizes good players like Green, Wood, and Horvath based on career issues. What team tries to field weaker players on purpose just because they made better career choices?

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