Matt Turner has had his share of stunning performances during his breakout 2020 season, but the highlight of his season to date came on Sunday, when he made the biggest save of his career to keep the New England Revolution dream playoff run going.
Turner made a diving save to deny a Nani penalty kick that would have erased New England’s 2-1 lead, a save that helped the Revs eventually post a 3-1 road victory over the host Lions. His 73rd-minute penalty kick save on Lions captain Nani kept the Revs in front for good as the club advanced to the Final for the first time since 2014.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Revs head coach Bruce Arena said post match. “We had to work real hard. That was a real good team we played today – a very good team. Maybe the best team we’ve faced this year. A great win, obviously. Big play in the game had to be Matt Turner’s save on the penalty kick. And obviously, the red card was huge as well. Our guys hung in there.
“They had to battle in the second half despite the fact, I think, they had more of the ball for a good majority of the game,” Turner said. “They really didn’t create too many dangerous chances, so I think for the most part we did well. I told our team afterwards besides congratulations, we made some mistakes in this game and we go to get it better for next week if we hope to advance to MLS Cup.”
The 26-year-old New Jersey native has worked his way into one of the top goalkeepers not only in MLS, but also for the U.S. Men’s National Team. After signing for the Revs as a free agent in 2016, Turner has since worked his way to the No. 1 spot, a spot he’s held for the past three seasons.
After making eight combined saves in victories over the Montreal Impact and the No. 1 seeded Philadelphia Union, Turner only needed to make two on Sunday afternoon at Exploria Stadium in the Revs upset win. Turner denied Chris Mueller in the first-half from long range before pushing wide Nani’s spot kick with the scoreline sitting at 2-1 in favor of the Revs.
It was a top-notch save from one of the top American keepers in the USMNT pool.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 29, 2020
“That [save] helped us a lot,” Revs forward Gustavo Bou said regarding Turner’s penalty save. “It was in the closing minutes, they were down a man and they were pushing. They found an unfortunate play on our end and it got them a penalty kick. Thank God [Turner] read the play and guessed correctly. It was a big relief for us. Like I said, it gave us a lot of strength and calmed us down knowing that the game was still in our favor. The third goal came after that, thank God, and we were able to win the game calmly.”
“Just doing the homework.” Turner said on how he guessed the shot correctly. “Doing your due diligence beforehand knowing the shooters, understanding their run-ups, knowing how long to wait, maybe some tell-tale signs of where they’re going to go, it’s all stuff you look at. On this particular one, you sort of did the homework, he’s taken a lot of penalty kicks this year so it’s all statistics and stuff like that. I picked my side early, went as hard as I could that way, made sure I kept my foot on the line, and made the save so it felt really nice.”
Nani’s record in MLS from the penalty spot hadn’t been anywhere near perfect with the Portuguese forward successful scoring four out of his eight previous attempts. Turner however made the save look comfortable, diving to his right and pushing the effort out for a corner kick. The confidence stayed with the Revs for the remaining 15+ minutes as Bou added his second goal of the match to ice the victory.
“It was pretty much just me versus [Nani],” Turner said. “It wasn’t about anybody else in the stands, I didn’t hear anything else. It was just focus on the ball, focus on the moment, trust the homework that you did, trust your technique to dive, trust all that and if you did all your preparation correctly you should be in a position to make the save so that was what was going through my head.”
“And then obviously you make the save and you want to celebrate but we had a corner kick to defend and we’ve been pretty bad at those all year but luckily we got that one out and were able to relax a little bit. I’d say that’s pretty much the moment for me. It was a really great one for me, it feels good, and we’ll just continue to build because the job’s not done yet.”
The Revs will now face either the Columbus Crew or Nashville SC in December 6th’s Final with an MLS Cup berth at stake.