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Chris Wilder ‘hopeful’ for Zack Steffen return in Middlesbrough squad


Zack Steffen missed his first match of the English Football League Championship season over the weekend, but will be fighting to return between the posts for Middlesbrough this week.

eSteffen missed Saturday’s 2-1 league win over Swansea City due to a knee injury suffered in training, manager Chris Wilder confirmed postmatch. Steffen failed a fitness test prior to kickoff at the Riverside Stadium, forcing Liam Edwards into the squad for his club debut.

Wilder hasn’t officially ruled Steffen eligible for Tuesday’s league trip to Watford, but remains optimistic that the U.S. men’s national team shot-stopper can feature.

“We’re hopeful he can play on Tuesday night,” Wilder said Monday in his pre-match press conference.

Steffen has started in five of Middlesbrough’s six league matches this season, conceding nine goals and posting a 0-3-2 record. The 27-year-old did not feature in Middlesbrough’s 1-0 EFL Cup loss to Barnsley earlier in the month.

Steffen is one of two USMNT goalkeepers in the EFL Championship fighting for consistent minutes ahead of September’s pair of international friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia. Ethan Horvath is on loan from Nottingham Forest at Luton Town, posting a 1-3-2 record and two clean sheets so far this season.

Middlesbrough faces Watford at Vicarage Road on Tuesday night before facing rivals Sunderland on Sept. 5.


  1. Matt Turner made the Arsenal move for perfectly sensible reasons:

    1. He believed he still could get better and he felt Arsenal could make him better than the Revs ever could. He said so himself and his early reports are that he’s already gotten better.

    2. Matt may still be able to get in enough games to be in form for Qatar. Ramsdale will be tough to beat out but he is not exactly Gigi Buffon. He’s big, he ‘s English and he’s overrated.
    Matt has beaten bigger odds in his career.

    3. Matt’s first duty is his day job . You all may not care if Matt misses out on bigger money but it is his club who pays his bills not the USMNT. You all talk as if he had a lot of leverage when signing with Arsenal. Like he could sign with them any time he wants. More likely, he was quite lucky to get a chance to sign with them at all.

    If he can eventually be the Arsenal starter, that can take him places the Revs never could. It’s a hell of a consolation prize if he winds up sitting in Qatar.

    4. Matt is not stupid.

    He knew that Zack was Gregg’s pet and, notwithstanding Matt’s Qualifiers performance, he knew he had to gamble to make sure he was the World Cup starter.

    The GK who starts the first game is likely to play every minute in Qatar. If Zach was healthy we all know that Zach was going to be that guy. That’s why Long and Ariolla are likely to be in Qatar.
    How much demand is there at big clubs for the second or third string GK’s at the World Cup who play zero minutes?

    It was a gamble that took a lot of guts. Matt has a lot of guts. It doesn’t look good right now but it’s early yet.

    I don’t think Matt is the USMNT’s best keeper. I would start Horvath or Sean. Probably Sean, which would have the added benefit of pissing everyone off .

    But I have a lot of respect for what Matt is trying to do here.

  2. Starting to wonder if Steffen might end up being the big surprise omission of the World Cup squad. He’s looked more than a little rough for Middlesbrough and I still think he looks like a guy who isn’t healthy. We’ve seen him do it before; I suppose it’s possible his confidence is off or some such but to my eyes he’s just looked for awhile like a guy who isn’t 100%. If he can’t get there…is a Steffen at 60% really better than a Horvath or a Sean Johnson?

    • No Steffen hasn’t been better than either Horvath or Sean John even at 100 percent the past couple of years. Berhalter and Steffen have familiarity from their time at Columbus. Steffen was really good then but made a dumb decision of transferring to Man City. Just like Turner should not have transferred to Arsenal. And Slonina shouldn’t have transferred to Chelsea. Don’t understand why Slonina and his reps are rushing to Europe at his young age.

      Increasing looks like Horvath and Sean John are 1 and 2 with either Steffen or Turner at 3.

      • this is where the “form” stuff gets silly. turner and seanjohn on NT performance. seanjohn is also “playing.” one then expects GB has horvath competing with steffen for spot 3. personally no amount of “form” — and he does have good numbers for forest, to be fair — makes me forget horvath vs ES giving up a near post goal a U16 would probably save, on top of the other gaffes. it might squeak him past steffen because the coach has blinders and steffen sucked vs CR and isn’t playing club still.

        bluntly, i would be shopping the position and use both friendlies to test potential 3rd choices. the idea to a NT is supposed to be earning the job playing well, not being the least worst coach’s pet in a who goes lower limbo contest. find someone saving shots who hasn’t made schoolboy errors for the NT yet.

    • Frustrating we dont have more time. I wish we could test out Gabriel Slonina, Roman Celetano, and Josh Cohen to see how they would perform against Int opponents since Steffen form is in limbo. I dont think we will bring four GK’s, so it will be Turner, Horvath, and Johnson same as last window.

      • “test out Gabriel Slonina, Roman Celetano, and Josh Cohen to see how they would perform against Int opponents ”

        USMNT fans are spoiled.

        The current crop ( ZEMS) are not Freidel/Keller/ Howard but they aren’t total crap either. The USMNT have bigger problems.

        If Slonina, Celetano, or Cohen want to be the next #1 they are going to have to stand on their heads for their clubs.

        At the moment, I don’t know what Gregg wants but it is Ethan, Sean and Matt in that order.

        Of the three I don’t think it matters who plays..

      • far as i am concerned we have plenty of time. spend one or both friendlies trialing wingbacks, strikers, and keepers. i would rather spend what little time left now on this than show up to qatar with untrustworthy players end of the roster. people always think they won’t see the field and then right set of injuries “wondo” is on the pitch to miss the sitter. also based on WCQ performance you’re not undermining some roll we were on. get the names right now and then worry about them playing together in november camp.

      • @The Imperative Voice. That is your opinion I respect it. You also contradicted yourself which confused me. As far as I am concerned, we have plenty of time, then you say what little time we have. We have two friendlies before the WC against two non top ten nor top twenty teams, Japan and Saudi Arabia nat teams. Their is not enough time, nor are these strong enough test. Steffan is struggling in the championship, that is why we are concerned. I bought up Cohen, because his team in the Israeli league plays in champions league and he has been starting doing well.

      • striker: i am not contradicting myself. you go with the USMNT performers who have played well in red white blue. i count 2 — turner and seanjohn. you then go with the player who based on a mix of some NT games and their club form looks hottest. my point was i would dump steffen and horvath for both being NT gaffe machines, ignore any club resurgence as fool’s gold, and try to find an “outside of box” choice actually playing well. when i have listed people to consider i have mentioned cohen before. his numbers are decent. but GB at keeper tends to go in circles among a list of usual suspects, who have been pre-annointed as “better.” he then if they go off the NT boil seems to too eagerly await some sort of club resurgence, rather than consider he just focused on the wrong ones to begin with. ironically the one position where he has readily gone “off list” is striker where he started with zardes and sargent before trying several and keeping ones who scored. keeper, give or take the rise of turner, is kind of still back in “on list.” throw in guzan or hamid and this was the 2018 list.

        let’s be real, in a previous cycle a “robles” style gaffe would end your candidacy. that you can get completely fooled near post and still be in the pool (with coach looking for some form uptick) says all you need to know.

        i think we were better when such things were decided on the field instead of on paper before the games start. he has too strong an idea who he wants to win the position jousts.

    • Steffen’s form has dropped significantly over the last 12+ months. He was overtaken by Turner for the # 1 spot….than Turner went and made the nearly identical error of transferring to a club where he wasn’t going to see many minutes.
      Meanwhile Horvath found a loan to pick-up significant playing time, essentially boosting his stock and S. Johnson (# 3 or # 4) has stayed stable and therefore raised himself as an option.
      For Sept matches I’d say # 1 Horvath, # 2 Turner, # 2b Johnson, # 4 Steffen left w/ his club to get healthy.

      • It’s hard to say Turner made a “mistake”…the dude was 27, this was his one big chance, he was, in his own words, “playing with house money.” He knew perfectly well he’s basically Kurt Warner, going from bagging groceries and living on a hope and prayer to making the bigs overnight…he got his chance to collect that life-changing money and he took it.

        Can’t blame him; I’d have done exactly what Turner did. And he’s got a different enough mentality he might keep his edge.

      • meh. i go by NT form primarily and turner with the exception of the one off game he’s played like a 1. i then don’t care too much what his club situation is — though i wish he’d get loaned. to me club form should be more of a “last man on the roster” marginal concern between roughly equal secondary NT performers. i do worry turner shows up rusty but short of him showing up to camp unable to catch a ball, you assume your steady 1 will continue to do so. conversely, i think it’s silly and perseveration to assume steffen or horvath is fixed if club briefly goes well. there is too much NT data screaming “don’t be fooled.” and i liked horvath but the performances speak for themselves.

        personally i think a subtle thing wrong with US keeping, and to some extent USMNT in general, is it’s become an entitlement decided in the coach’s head and not something won in NT games playing out of your mind. i think the team would look very different if the actual games got treated like they mattered.

      • quozzel – I don’t begrudge him taking his shot at playing in the EPL and picking up a salary boost. It’s more that I would have preferred he’d either waited until after the WC or negotiated a loan deal into his contract for playing time until after the WC. Loan would have allowed Arsenal re-call him if they had an injury to their 1st choice keeper.
        I know its a little selfish but I want our players in the best form possible for the WC, and that includes seeing regular minutes.
        IV – Yes, National Team performances are of greater importance than club form….but unless they’re getting club minutes it’s difficult to maintain game sharpness & fitness. Up until now Turner has been an everyday starter at his club. With him now being a back-up and not seeing many minutes it’s hard to assess how he’ll do for the USMNT. Unlike Horvath we’ve never seen Turner be a bench player for club and come into a match as a sub to stand on his head to win a competitive game.

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