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USMNT Depth Chart: Ranking the Goalkeepers

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The U.S. men’s national team has begun its new World Cup qualifying cycle after a successful summer complete with a pair of trophy-winning tournament runs, and now with five points from three September qualifiers, the Americans head towards some very important months ahead.

It is also a good time to take stock of the USMNT player pool, and see how players stack up after the busy summer and recent qualifiers. There is more competition throughout the talent pool, though some positions have more strong candidates than others.

SBI will be taking a closer look at every position in the player pool in the coming days, and we begin with goalkeeper, where a new first-choice goalkeeper has emerged to take over the top spot.

For some clarification on the process to establish these rankings, factors ranking from national team appearances and call-ups, age and youth national team experience. In other words, there may be some older goalkeepers who are enjoying better seasons in MLS than some of the players on this list, but since they have not been a part of the USMNT setup before (or not in a long time) then they may be unranked in favor of younger prospects.

There are also some talented younger prospects who aren’t on this list due to the fact they have yet to become first-team starters at any point in their career, like Leicester City teenager Chituru Odunze and Benfica B goalkeeper C.J. Dos Santos, who very well could jump into this list once they make the jump to seeing regular first-team time, either at their current clubs or on loan elsewhere.

Here is a closer look at the USMNT Goalkeeper Depth Chart:


USMNT Goalkeeper Depth Chart


1. Matt Turner

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The New England Revolution goalkeeper’s meteoric rise has taken him from MLS reserve just a few years ago to now first-choice USMNT goalkeeper. Zack Steffen’s back spasms and subsequent COVID-19 infection opened the door for Turner to build on his outstanding Gold Cup with a strong showing in World Cup qualifying.

Given how well he is playing, and the lack of club minutes for those closest to him on this list, Turner could remain at the top for some time.


2. Zack Steffen

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

After topping this list for the better part of two years, Steffen has been passed by Turner. A lack of playing time at Manchester City isn’t likely to help him reclaim his spot, though at this point his bigger concern is staying healthy and working to minimize the injury issues that have plagued him in recent years.


3. Ethan Horvath

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

His heroic showing in the Concacaf Nations League final helped remind us all just how good Horvath can be, but his move to English side Nottingham Forest has failed to provide him with the playing time to build on that performance. At 26, Horvath has time to develop, but he needs games, and Forest’s poor start to the English League Championship season should be helping him get on the field sooner.


4. Sean Johnson

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The New York City FC veteran has been a consistent presence in the USMNT mix for a few years now, and while he hasn’t broken through for many appearances, he has remained one of the better goalkeepers in MLS for several seasons.


5. Brad Guzan


Why is a 37-year-old goalkeeper this high on the list when he hasn’t played for the USMNT in several years? He was on the Gold Cup squad as the third goalkeeper this summer, and his national team experience and status as a consistent MLS starter makes him a viable emergency option if none of the usual suspects are available.


6. Bill Hamid

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have been the issue for Hamid, who remains one of the better goalkeepers in MLS when healthy. He has earned looks from Gregg Berhalter before, and with D.C. United enjoying a resurgence under first-year head coach Hernan Losada, Hamid should have the platform to climb up this list once he can stay on the field for an extended period of time.


7. J.T. Marcinkowski


The U.S. Under-23 men’s national team goalkeeper is now the leading candidate among the younger prospects in the pool after David Ochoa’s decision to play for Mexico. Though the Earthquakes haven’t emerged as a strong team in 2021, Marcinkowski has settled into a regular starting role and continues to develop. There is a generation of very talented prospects in the 17-21 age range though so Marcinkowski could wind up being passed over if he doesn’t make the most of his current opportunity.


8. Tyler Miller

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Though he doesn’t get talked about as much as he should, Miller has put together another solid season in goal after reclaiming the starting spot for Minnesota United. The 28-year-old is a big reason why the Loons have stayed in playoff contention despite having an attack that hasn’t generated goals consistently. Given some of the older options on this list, Miller should climb the rankings in the coming years if he can maintain consistency.


9. Tim Melia

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When his name was included in the preliminary list for the Concacaf Gold Cup it came as a long overdue acknowledgement of the high level Melia has played at for several years. Does that mean he’s actually close to the USMNT mix? Only time will tell, but at 35, Melia’s window to break into the national team might have closed by now.


10. Tomas Romero

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Originally sought after by the El Salvador national team, Romero passed on an invitation with the Central American country to keep his options open and make himself available for a potential USMNT call-up. Some may have seen that as an ambitious decision, but if the 20-year-old can establish himself as a regular starter for LAFC then he very well could be a big part of the next Olympic qualifying cycle, and have a future in the USA setup.


What do you think of the list? Who are you happy to see included? Who didn’t make the cut that you feel should be on the list?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I did not realize Romero was that young. He is not in the top three anytime soon, but he has performed well for LAFC this season and with the woes LAFC have had that is something. Time will tell if rises to the top in a few years, but I would not be surprised. Of course there are other young keepers out there who may be better, but Romero is playing first team ball now and is trusted enough that LAFC shed an experienced international keeper in Vermeer and is currently starting him in front of a 26 year-old.

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  2. Thanks for the article!!!

    I love these types of articles/conversations.

    Turner is #1, and should be. He earned it. PT and being in form is very important.
    As many others, I worry about Horvath and Steffen not playing.

    As much as I love Guzman as an emergency option, it would be cool to see a “new” name or younger kid get a shot to see what they can do in team camp.

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  3. I know you said they aren’t included because they have never started for the first team, which is understandable, but where WOULD you include Odunze and Dos Santos if they were to be included? Especially since they’be been called into camps relatively recently.

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  4. I think the rankings aren’t bad but I would view them more as a checklist. Starting with the top of the list ask if that player has DEMONSTRATED that they are healthy and in form. If yes, put them on the team sheet. If no, move on down to the next guy on the list. I would be comfortable with any of the players on the list (except Romero) provided that they were in good form when the need arises. Berhalter has enough talent to demand that all of his GK candidates be near the top of their game if they want to play.

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  5. Like the article showing our options for the future. But am I wrong in thinking that we need to settle on a top 2, and really establish a go-to guy, now that we are trying to qualify for a world cup that is roughly a year out? Establish a strong understanding between the main keeper and CBs in the near future?

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    • That in mind, I put horvath ahead of Steffen based on likely playing time over the next calendar year. Nothing against Steffen, and keeper “form” may be different than that if field players, but how can we start a guy who we know will function as a backup? Probably won’t happen, but if I’m Zach, I’d want a loan for the 2nd half of the season.

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    • Underestimated part of the process and an important part. CBs need to know the difference in where a keeper is supposed to be and where they actually can/will be.

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    • In terms of skills and ability there is little to choose between Turner, Steffen, and Horvath. All three are just okay as international level keepers.

      None of them will remind you of Keller, Friedel or Howard in their prime.

      But managers tend to be conservative about switching out keepers.

      The #1 position will remain Turner’s until he screws up big enough to give the manager a reason to change him. None of the three are really good distributors, but Matt is arguably the worst of the three.

      Most USMNT fans downplay that but the reality is it means that the ball does not get very quick and it slows down the offense. An offense that is already slow and ponderous as it is.

      Whoever the keeper is, if he doesn’t upgrade his distribution it will be a negative.

      It is possible to be a great shot stopper and good distributor as well. But the manager does not seem to care about that. I’m sure he has bigger worries, like how to field a team that knows how to play together.

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  6. 1-3 are the only things that matter for the next 12 months. As to Steffen, I never understood why he was rated as highly as he is. I must have missed his truly elite caliber performances. I would want to see Turner in a high stress game (champions, MX in Azteca, away @ costa rica… just something) before anointing him above Horvath, who I think should be our top keeper choice at this time.

    Ives, what exactly did Steffen do to deserve the hype? Was there a game or season?

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    • By the same standard- Horvath should need to play in a high stress game in Azteca too, yes? I too think Horvath is a quality keeper- but- thrilling as it was, he sure seems to get a disproportionate boost from a lot of people based mostly on heroics in part of one match. Not only is Turner getting regular playing time and excelling with his club- but he has also put together a bit of a run of really good games for the national team. I really think Horvath is a talent and hope he can get on the field at Nottingham Forest. It is puzzling he is not considering their #1 its not so good. Ultimately a starting position for the national team has to be continually earned through consistent performance over a period of time. Unfortunately Horvath hasn’t had that for club or country.

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      • Completely agreed that Horvath needs some high stress games too, to sort it out. Though I give the Nation’s League game as 1 of the couple of games needed. Again, as CONCACAF teams, there are very few of these games.

    • For the elite caliber Steffen performance, the game you want to look at is against France before the 2018 World Cup. Not arguing that puts him at the top of the list three years later – the guy needs to play regularly – but that was the performance that put him up there.

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    • 2018 MLS Playoffs Atl United vs Columbus Crew. Penalty shootout put Steffen on the US radar. Guzan was the number 1 GK at the time. Playing for the national team put him on the Europe radar. He’d be silly to leave Man City before the WC. On another note- Turner is actually older than Steffen & Horvath. Turner is playing well!! No reason all 3 can’t get playing time with the US if all are healthy.

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    • His performances on loan in the Bundesliga for a soon to be relegated Duesseldorf as well. That season allowed Man City to make him their number two and cup guy. Also, do you think Man City keeps a crap keeper to as their number two? They’d be one injury away from throwing away championships? It’s a weird take that he hasn’t earned being in the convo as the US #1.

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  7. Nice to see GK as a position of strength again. The top 3 are all good enough and worthy of being the starter, and that is a relief. Guzan is the emergency option, he’s earned that. Johnson and Hamid are great athletes but neither have been very consistent with the US teams. 35 is too late with too many other options. Not familiar with the others but maybe start bringing the best young talents into some friendly camps to groom for the future. Thanks for this Ives.

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  8. #1-3 are the actual product of performance, though perhaps less so Steffen. #4-7 are just the perpetuation of the Line of Succession approach that has created a mess for years. most of them have middling stats and inconsistent/meh quality when they have been capped, or played for high age group teams like U23. they are where they are on the Line of Succession because at some point someone deemed them next in line, and they stayed there regardless how they looked. hamid among them is the only one truly looking good in club and yet that club form has to be balanced against his YNT/MNT history of losing gaffes a la yedlin brooks etc.

    there are several better current keepers than #4-7 who IMO are like horvath and turner were, just waiting for their chance. if we want to staff the position by performance and not like this is a kingdom where one has a natural spot in line and when the previous guy leaves it’s yours, which gets you guzan, sloppy and swiss cheese one day, decent the next. i kind of like this summer vibe where people actually earn the job on the field instead of because they have been groomed for the job for most of a decade and still not amounted to much. much better team this way.

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    • i am curious who would have started if steffen was healthy. should have been turner but who knows. i also think it’s debatable if after his knee problems steffen should be ahead of horvath. not on NT game performance IMO. i think the snob fallback on that is “club form,” reality is steffen played 90 in the shield game in early august and nothing since, while horvath has 3 rotational cup and league games. that white glove “form” test is never applied equally to regular vs insurgent. i like steffen but he hasn’t looked like the top notch version of himself in a couple years.

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      • So we just ignore Horvath vs Portugal or Horvath gifting a goal to the opponent on Tuesday. You’re still complaining about Sean Johnson from 10 years ago but Horvath vs Portugal two years ago slips your mind.

      • this is precisely why club form is awful NT scouting. you ignore how the NT games go and start arguing for the poorer NT performers based on cherry picked anecdotes from club, or the implication that the guy whose club form you like has fixed their NT game, which usually is not true.

        we tied portugal the game you mention. hamid blew ireland and yes also that U23 decider, along with sean johnson. and you ignore horvath also has some excellent cuba/ mexico games banked these others don’t. you know, that we should be picking the position based on excellence in NT appearances and not some pecking order decided off club scouting and never adjusted for how the NT games then actually go.

        turner would not be the best keeper on paper. turner is the 1 based on how the NT games go. i prefer that to this klinsi-era idea that guzan is the 1 because he was the 2 and the annointed one, not because of consistent play in the 1 shirt.

        it’s like you’re trying to justify precisely the wrong people based on any old anecdote.

    • @Johnnyrazor, Thanks for bringing up Horvath’s start for Nottingham. I just checked out the highlights. The game was actually on Wednesday instead. Finally having had a chance to start in the English Championship, it sucks that Horvath had a heavy touch (Horvath pulled off a Matt Turner’s heavy foot touch) on a Nottingham defender’s back pass to goalie, and Middlesbrough scored on Horvath’s mistake, 2-0. All 3 of our current top USMNT’s goalies have their strengths and weaknesses. We just need to cheer for them whoever gets to start for our country.

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      • Heard Horvath obviously responsible for the giveaway goal but that NF was pretty bad in general that Horvath was far from the worst. Too bad that Ethan finally got to start and he had such a gaffe.

      • steffen hasn’t started since like early august. but like i said, the use of the “form” tool is generally to point the spotlight at the upstart, not as a general purpose assessment that includes regulars as well. like i said, when was the last time steffen looked like steffen. and like he never had a gaffe. i remember horvath’s 5-hole. i also remember steffen passing a ball straight to mexico, if you want to go there.

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